George Segal’s iconic Street Crossing installation of seven life-sized sculpted figures, which formerly graced the area south of Montclair State University’s Alexander Kasser Theater, has been moved a short distance away to a new home in front of College Hall. In the new location, the figures are visible through a series of newly-erected Mission-style archways which are part of the University’s College Avenue Promenade beautification project.
Street Crossing depicts seven people crossing a street in a random manner. They seem to be taking care not to bump into each other, yet are too lost in their own thoughts to make eye contact. The figures are made of bronze with a white patina to resemble the white plaster figures for which the late New Jersey artist was famous.
Created in 1992 and considered one of Segal’s foremost works, Street Crossing was given to Montclair State by the George and Helen Segal Foundation in 2006.
“It shows people leisurely walking about. Some are professionals; some are students; some are ordinary people. It’s like an everyday scene at Montclair State,” said Teresa Rodriguez, director of the Montclair State University Art Galleries and the George Segal Gallery.
The four women and three men depicted in Street Crossing are anchored in place by rods that run from their feet to a depth of six feet below ground. The figures are arranged according to a precise floor plan devised by the artist. At night, each figure is illuminated by two ground lights that have been laid flush with the new paving.
The installation was dismantled during the summer because of construction work in the area and the figures were kept inside the Gallery. In September, they were moved to an area off-site and cleaned. Students who had become accustomed to seeing the figures as they walked by the Kasser Theater began calling the Gallery to find out where they had gone. “They were so worried when the figures disappeared,” Rodriguez recalled.
On cold winter days, students have been known to show their fondness for the work by putting hats and scarves on the figures—who seem to be clad in light clothing—a practice the Segal Foundation finds “endearing,” Rodriguez added.
In addition to close encounters with students, Street Crossing has also survived two motor vehicle accidents during its years at Montclair State, including one in which a New Jersey Transit bus plowed into one of the heavy metal figures, causing minor damage to the figure’s foot. The bus company paid for the repairs.
Montclair State University’s $2.3 million College Avenue Promenade project involves improvements to walkways, roadways, lighting, and landscaping between Normal Avenue and the Red Hawk Parking Deck. The project also encompasses the restoration of the historic quad between Chapin, Freeman, and Russ Halls, and when completed, will restore the original feeling of grandeur to the south end of the campus.