Client: Broad Street Ministry
Location: Philadelphia, PA, United States
Completion date: 2006
Artwork budget: $27,500
Broad Street Ministry
Tilting at Giants is twelve farm windmills suspended within the sanctuary of the historic Chambers-Wylie Memorial Presbyterian Church building in Center City Philadelphia, PA. A single votive prayer candle floats within the heart of each windmill tower. The space is operated by Broad Street Ministry (BSM), a hospitality ministry focused on the homeless and income-unstable population in Center City Philadelphia. The RFP expressed a desire for an installation that would inspire hope and was both transcendent and accessible/discernable, as the soaring neo-Gothic sanctuary was being converted into a large dining room and open gathering space for their guests and staff. The installation was envisioned to be both visually striking, and also somewhat translucent, complimenting the incredible setting while not upstaging the architecture. The windmills are aluminum, purchased from an Amish decorative windmill maker in Indiana. The installation involved steel rigging hardware, wire rope, windmills, candles, and various other miscellaneous hardware. Each windmill is 10′ in height, and is suspended 20′ above the floor of the sanctuary. The total length of the installation is approx 100′.
The ethos of BSM is a progressive, whole person model. They desire to feed mind, body, and spirit, and recognized the potential of a work of art to reimagine and reinvigorate the dark, century-old church. I enjoy discovering the work's content within the site, so I leaned into subtle Biblical references and imagery, while also introducing a new, less-common icon/symbol to the sacred space.
"Dayton's vision and work are important on a couple of different frontiers for our burgeoning faith community," states Bill Golderer, convening minister, Broad Street Ministry. "First, the work challenges us in everything we do--from worship services to any other programming we take on--to seek out new ways of being radically open to the mysteries we proclaim. Second, this installation marks an important first step in signaling Broad Street Ministry's desire to be in a mutual and supportive relationship with artists of every kind--who by their courageous and creative work point us beyond the limitations we bump up against every day, and onto new and enlivening possibilities."
The commission was privately funded through individual contributions solicited by Broad Street Ministry. Installation assistance was provided by artist Rob Matthews, with support from Eastern Scaffolding, and the University of the Arts. The windmills were fabricated by Dave Wingard, of Shipshewanna, Indiana.
"It is easy to see," replied Don Quixote, "that you are not used to this business of adventures. Those are giants, and if you are afraid, away with you out of here and betake yourself to prayer, while I engage them in fierce and unequal combat."