UTICA, N.Y. - The week of the Comets home opener kicked off in exciting fashion, with two art unveilings in Zuhaus, part of the 26,000-square foot renovation.
A group of the Comets staff, AUD Authority, and family & friends gathered together in Zuhaus first for the unveiling of the ‘The Drummer Boy,’ a collaboration between Eliot and Ashlynn Esche. Eliot, who passed away just over 20 years ago, lived his life with a dedication to the arts, and created an array of different drawings and paintings during his time. ‘The Drummer Boy’ was one of them, and featured a boy sitting on a stool with a cap on his head and drum in hand. Ashlynn, Eliot’s 16-year old niece, took a canvas with the original drummer boy and added her unique flare and perspective to it with neon colors, hidden meanings, and tributes to both her life and the Comet Culture through layers of oil paint.
Ashlynn, currently a Sophomore at Westmoreland, shares her uncle’s passion for art, and spends nearly all of her free time in a self-made studio she has set up in her barn. The Esche family as a whole celebrates ‘The Drummer Boy’ as a melding of the viewpoints of two family members looking at the same scene in similar but differing ways. ‘The Drummer Boy’ is dedicated to Eliot, and the legacy that he left throughout the Mohawk Valley and with his family before his passing.
“It is very fulfilling to be able to showcase both my brother and daughter’s art all on one canvas,” said Comets President Robert Esche.
Next was the unveiling of ‘Gil,’ a 5 x 6-foot art installation created by artist Tim Rand of Clinton, New York. In June of 2017, Mohawk Valley Garden commissioned Rand to execute a large-scale portrait of Gil Seltzer, the architect responsible for creating The AUD. Rand worked diligently for almost three months to create the installation, which is comprised of small squares of wood that are layered to create a three-dimensional effect. The final product took him 88 hours, consists of 2,016 wooden blocks, and weighs 140 pounds.
The Comets staff contacted Gil earlier this summer, when the time capsule was discovered back in May of 2017. During once scene in the video footage that was uncovered, there are three men sitting at a table – Mayor John McKennan, Structural Engineer Lev Zetlin, and a mystery man. After some digging by AUD Authority member Paul Romano, it was discovered that that third man was in fact Gil Seltzer. The discovery was even more shocking when Romano and the Comets staff heard that Seltzer is, in fact, still alive, at the age of 104, and working four days a week as an architect in West Orange, New Jersey.
Seltzer had an illustrious career. In 1939, as a young architect working for Gehron Architects he was the firm's construction phase representative for the Convalescent Camp on Roosevelt Island in New York City, later known as Goldwater Hospital. In 1941, Seltzer left the practice for a time to serve in a special troop organized by the U.S. War Department, known as the "Ghost Army.” The Ghost Army was a top-secret decoy mission that would misdirect Nazi troops away from the actual invasion beaches. Upon his return in 1945, he worked on notable projects including East Coast Memorial in Battery Park with Italian sculptor Albino Manca and buildings at Rutgers University, City College New York, Denison University, William Paterson University, West Point, and the Merchant Marine Academy.
Comets VP of Communications Lindsay Mogle traveled down to New Jersey to interview and photograph Seltzer, who was modest and confused as to what the big deal was. During his interview, he spoke to his deep ties to Utica and his passion for the project. It was there that Lindsay took the photograph for Rand, who began his work shortly after the July visit.
“I’ve always held a great reverence for those who have lived long and full lives, for there is something to be said for this sort of endurance,” said Rand on his experience painting Seltzer. “There is something beautiful about a face that has seen so much and when I was approached with this project, I was thrilled to be able to capture such a compelling portrait. Works such as these are meant to last and create an imprint upon those who care to slow down and enjoy the finer side of life."
Both pieces of art will live in Zuhaus, for guests at events and concerts to observe and to add character to the new party room at the Adirondack Bank Center. While drastically different, the two pieces both relate to the history of the Comets, The AUD, and some of the brightest people to have lived and worked in the Mohawk Valley.