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Arts Desk

Three Generations of Calder Artists and Their Philadelphia Legacy

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Alexander (Sandy) Calder

Dilworth Park at Philadelphia’s City Hall boasts new attractions - including greenery, a café, and a fountain that becomes an ice skating rink in winter. But the newly redesigned space also draws attention to older works of art and a family that made its mark on the city for nearly a century. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, one need only...to look up.

Radio script:

Susan Lewis: Alexander Milne Calder - born in 1846 - crafted over 200 figures for City Hall, which is topped by his 23-ton, 37-foot tall statue of William Penn. During a cleaning in 2007, conservator David Cann took us to the very top of Penn’s hat.

David Cann: We can pop off the top of so you can see how he’s built. I think there are 47 sections of casting that are flange-bolted together in one piece...they couldn’t put it up here in one piece.

SL: From what was for years the tallest point in the city, one can look down at Logan Square’s Swann Fountain, whose figures were sculpted by Calder’s son, Alexander Stirling Calder. Up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the home of the large mobile Ghost, created by his grandson, also named Alexander Calder, but known as Sandy.  Sandy Calder also created what are, in effect, tiny sculptures...jewelry.

Kathleen Foster: He grew up in this legacy, he couldn’t  help it, he was making stuff out of everyday objects and scraps.

SL: Philadelphia Museum of Art Curator of American Art, Kathleen Foster.

KF: All of them are interested in public art, and Calder grew into that, with...a playful sense of art as part of daily life.

SL: Sandy Calder, who died in 1976, was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

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Listen to PMA Curator of American Art Kathleen Foster talk with Susan Lewis about Sandy Calder, and his family's legacy.