Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 10
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
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Sculpture in Plaza Will Commemorate Life of Albert E. Hinds

Dilshanie Perera

Montclair-based artist Tom Nussbaum has been selected by the Hinds Plaza Committee to create a sculpture commemorating the life and legacy of longtime Princeton resident Albert E. Hinds. The Committee and Mr. Nussbaum came before Borough Council last Tuesday to present their vision of the artwork, and obtained an informal approval from Council.

To be positioned at the south end of the plaza closest to Witherspoon Street, the sculpture will be a brushed stainless steel gate cut with images and symbols representing Mr. Hinds’s life.

The gate, which is designed to stay open permanently, will function both as an entrance and symbolic opening into Princeton. “Mr. Hinds didn’t have that, and some of us didn’t have that, and the fact that the gate will forever remain open is important,” said former mayor and member of the Hinds Plaza Committee Jim Floyd in reference to the experience of African Americans in Princeton.

Mr. Hinds embodied 104 years of Princeton’s history up until his death in 2006. He attended the Witherspoon Elementary School at a time of school segregation; he helped pave Nassau Street; drove a horse-drawn carriage to pick up passengers arriving at Princeton Junction; taught and coached sports programs at the YMCA, and served on boards in the municipal government for over 20 years. He started up and led a calisthenics class for seniors attending the Mount Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church on Witherspoon Street when he was in his nineties, and was a member of the church his entire life.

“My intention is to commemorate him, and through his story commemorate the history of African Americans in Princeton,” Mr. Nussbaum said of his project. While the work is still in its conceptual phases, he anticipates having a draft of the final project ready in six to eight weeks. He presented a slideshow of other public artworks of similar size and scope to Borough Council and community members during the meeting.

“I have been doing public art projects for almost 25 years,” said Mr. Nussbaum, who has worked with New Jersey Transit on stainless steel sculptures, consisting of site-specific doors and archways, similar in scope to the project at Hinds Plaza.

The artist will collaborate with the Historical Society of Princeton to put together accompanying text to further detail Mr. Hinds’s biography. Chair of the Hinds Plaza Committee Wendy Benchley praised Mr. Nussbaum for researching Mr. Hinds’s life and gathering community input on the sculpture prior to working on the final designs.

“Public art is a process of give and take,” Mr. Nussbaum said. Assuring Council that the sculpture would be integrated into the landscape of the plaza, he had initially considered placing the gate parallel to Witherspoon Street and facing the intersection with Hulfish, but repositioned it at the plaza’s south end after public input and conversations.

The cost of the project is estimated at between $70,000 and $80,000, Ms. Benchley said, adding that the Committee would do the fundraising, but would “gladly accept donations from the Borough.”

Other Albert E. Hinds Committee members include Judith Brodsky, Leslie Burger, Jeff Nathanson, Shirley Satterfield, Kate Somers, and Susan Taylor.

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