J. Howard - The Star News
it's because he's a sculptor himself, but Wilfredo Morel
thinks that art is just another aspect of a person's
very least, he figures, art is a great way of reaching
out to people. And if they can learn a little about the
health care resources available to them, then it's all
the better. That's especially true in communities where
many people are poor and few speak English. Art is a way
of reaching them.
really think that bringing in art as another tool to
educate and break barriers, it's another tool we have,"
that line of thinking that led Morel, the Director of
Community Out-Reach for Hudson River Community Health in
Peekskill, to develop the historic farm exhibit at the
comer of Main and Bank streets.
tools are just what can be found on the site of a former
service station next door to the health center. The
varied and obscure items came from a pair of New
Hampshire farms owned by friends of Morel. He drove up
and dug them out; two at first, then 10 more later.
Trees were growing through some of the wrought iron
plows and mowers, and they were covered in a hundred
years of dirt and rust.
salvaged them and restored and repaired them where he
could. They stand now like fixtures of modern art. A few
of Morel's own sculptures stand alongside the old tools,
revealed most date
around 1910. Now they fit in nicely with the Peekskill
Farmer's Market, which takes place on Saturdays just
around the corner.
The health center bought the
adjacent property a few years ago. The old station had
become an eyesore. Now it's an attraction that makes the
downtown a nicer looking place. A row of flowers lines a
chain-link fence that encloses the site.
The fence itself is painted black to
make it appear less forbidding, and a wide opening at the front
gives the place an inviting look. The grounds are covered in mulch,
completing the effect of a sculpture garden.
The old service station itself was
renovated inside and out and will eventually re-open as a community
resource center, augmenting the health center's range of community
Ann Insyxiengmay has worked at the
upholstery business across the street for 22 years. She said the
exhibit has added something to the neighborhood.
"The customers see it, and they say it's an improvement,"
Insyxiengmay said. "I'm glad something happened. It looks better
More than the visual improvement and
more than the tie-in with the farmer's market, the site holds an
The health center has many art programs meant to bring in the
community. In one recent program dubbed "Doors of the Future,"
children painted doors with images representing their hopes and
dreams. In the health center's waiting area, there are ongoing
exhibits by local photographers. And a colorful mural of the Hudson
River Valley by a local artist is painted on a wooden fence that
runs between the site and the health center.
"I really feel that art improves
everyone's standard of living," health center spokeswoman Dorothy
DeBiase said. Peekskill residents Benjamin and Gracie M. Smith
were strolling down Main Street last week just before a group of day
campers were to arrive for a tour of the site. They liked what they
saw. "It adds a lot of color," Benjamin said. "I think that this
very important because it gives us something to motivate us and to
be proud of."