Heavy D sculpture unveiled in rapper’s home town

Mount Vernon, NY Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard, ArtsWestchester and the family of the influential hip-hop artist Heavy D joined the development team behind 42 Broad for the unveiling of Brooklyn-based artist Eto Otitigbe’s Peaceful Journey, a monumental public art installation celebrating the rapper’s music and legacy in Mount Vernon. The Heavy D sculpture was unveiled in May of 2023.

“I wanted to pay homage to the Mount Vernon community that had such an important place in hip-hop with this work of art,” Eto Otitigbe said of Peaceful Journey.

The artist explained that the Heavy D song the sculpture is named after “offers a thoughtful and complex picture of the lives of Black and Brown people [living] in places like Mount Vernon, the Bronx or Los Angeles” and that the Mount Vernon native’s music was transformative for him growing up.

Inspired by various points of interest including architecture, physics and hip-hop, Otitigbe won a commission for a site-specific installation within the plaza at 42 Broad, a striking high-rise that will be one of the nation’s most energy-efficient residential buildings when it opens this spring. Situated at the corner of Broad Street and Fleetwood Avenue, the Heavy D sculpture Peaceful Journey will be on view for pedestrians, as well as drivers exiting and entering the Cross County Parkway.

The Heavy D sculpture, which was selected through an open competitive process managed by ArtsWestchester, a leading public art proponent, offers the hope of tranquility through turbulent times and represents how harmony and balance can be achieved even during times of change.

“Otitigbe’s abstract artwork will add a spectacular focal point to a gateway to the City of Mount Vernon,” Patterson-Howard said. “Not only my friend and a son of Mount Vernon, but Heavy D was also an integral part of making Mount Vernon the Jewel of Westchester; his influence in the creation of this sculpture makes it more meaningful. Although Heavy D has begun his ‘peaceful journey,’ Mr. Otitigbe’s sculptural arch is a true testament to the pride, resilience, and transformation of ‘Money Earnin Mount Vernon.’ I am sure this warms the heart of the Myers family and all Heavy D touched as not only an artist but a resident of Mount Vernon.”

Otitigbe worked with the architect Michael DiCarlo to design Peaceful Journey. The archway offers an invitation for people to pass through its portal, which serves as a waymarker for a peaceful journey — whether for those leaving the building or the community, or for those returning home.

“We are grateful and honored to the City of Mount Vernon, ArtsWestchester, and the 42 Broad development team of Mark Alexander, Nicholas Alexander and the Bluestone Organization for commemorating the legacy of the groundbreaking album ‘Peaceful Journey’ by Heavy D & the Boyz during the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop music and culture,”Floyd Myers, brother of Heavy D, said. “Today’s sculpture unveiling is a testament to the impact of this album and the artistry of Dwight Myers (Heavy D), Troy Dixon (Trouble T-Roy), Eddie Ferrell (Eddie F.) and Glen Parrish (G-Wiz) had on the music industry. We hope this statue will inspire future generations to tap into their creativity as a means of expression and expanding the message of love, peace, and unity as voiced in the music of Heavy D & the Boyz.” 

The Jeavy D sculpture is made of Vermont Fantastico Marble, Stainless Steel and COR-TEN steel. The form cycles between stone and metal and appears to continue its path through the concrete. The hive-like steel structure references pointed archways from South East Asian and Islamic architecture, and were later made popular in Gothic architecture throughout Europe.

“The hexagon is a signifier for strength and harmony,” Otitigbe said. “As one passes under the archway and looks up the view of the sky is pixelated by a hexagonal grid. Even the surface of the metal will transform over time as the COR‐TEN steel weathers and changes color. The stone monolith also conveys a sense of balance and affirmation while its surface carries an organic fluid pattern; evidence of the stone’s transformation over time.”

Designed by global architecture firm Perkins Eastman and built to meet the highest standard of sustainable design, 42 Broad is the world’s largest market-rate multifamily high-rise to achieve Phius passive house Design Certification. The building includes a collection of 249 modern residences and access to more than 20,000 square feet of programmed amenities.

“Public art is integral to our development philosophy,” Mark Alexander, co-founder and principal of Alexander Development Group, said. “At 42 Broad, we are allocating a sizeable budget for highly visible art to create a memorable place, promote community pride, and to raise the level of aesthetics and energy in the city. Great public art should be transformational, and that is our intent with Otitigbe’s monumental sculpture. Peaceful Journey compliments the metalwork and brick masonry of the building, while inviting the public to walk through its dappled lit archway.”

About Eto Otitigbe

Eto Otitigbe is a polymedia artist whose interdisciplinary practice intersects concepts related to Blackness, power, and technology.  His works have been exhibited nationally and internationally for over 15 years.

Otitigbe studied Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (B.S.) and Stanford University (M.S.) and earned an MFA in Creative Practice from the TransArt Institute.

Otitigbe lives and works in Brooklyn, NY where he is an Assistant Professor in the Art Department of Brooklyn College.

About ArtsWestchester

For over 50 years, ArtsWestchester has been the community’s connection to the arts. Founded in 1965, it is the largest private not-for-profit arts council in New York State. Its mission is to provide leadership vision and support to ensure the availability accessibility and diversity of the arts.

ArtsWestchester helps fund concerts exhibitions and plays through grants; brings artists into schools and community centers; advocates for the arts, including public art; and builds audiences through diverse marketing initiatives.

In 1998, ArtsWestchester purchased the nine-story neo-classical bank building at 31 Mamaroneck Avenue which has since been transformed into a multi-use resource for artists, cultural organizations and the community. A two-story gallery is located on the first floor of ArtsWestchester’s historic building on Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains, NY.

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