Onwards and Upwards – Together We Rise: Pulaski nears completion

5 5 Ladder art in the parkWilliam Paine/The Patriot

Ladder Art in the Park – Barry Keller, seen here in the midst of the sculpture, is the primary builder for artist Charlie Brouwer’s ladder sculpture.



The Patriot


A person passing by Pulaski’s town hall couldn’t help but notice the Fine Art Center for the NRV’s latest and maybe greatest ever art installation, as it nears completion one ladder at a time. The name of this eye arresting artwork is Together We Rise: Pulaski and its home is in Jackson Park.

Construction of this unusual sculpture, which is made entirely of ladders, began on Monday and will continue until the last ladder is laid at 6 p.m. this Saturday.

This akimbo assemblage of ladders is the brainchild of former RU art professor Charlie Brouwer, who has erected such outdoor installations in several cities prior to Pulaski. Creating these ladder sculptures is necessarily a communal experience because each ladder is borrowed from people and businesses in the community.

Charlie Brouwer and Mayor Collins
Charlie Brouwer and Mayor Collins meet at Together We Rise: Pulaski. (William Paine/The Patriot)

The ‘Together We Rise’ name of the artwork emphasizes the idea that, when a community comes together to make such a sculpture, that community becomes more cohesive and stronger … it rises up!

“It’s going wonderful,” said Brouwer on day three of the build. “It’s good to have an engaged community getting it all together for me.”

Each of Brouwer’s ladder sculptures takes on a different form, which reflects the character of the place where its built. Together We Rise: Pulaski has taken the form of a large house like structure that opens up to a view of Peak Knob.

“I like houses and homes and what they’re all about,” said Brouwer. “It’s part of my vocabulary as an artist and I’m thinking about the Pulaski Community. Pulaski is a place that’s had its ups and downs but people choose to live here. So, this sculpture represents the idea that this is home.”

Barry Keller, an artist in his own right, is assisting Brouwer in building the sculpture. As such, Keller often finds himself high above the ground as he fastens ladders together using heavy duty zip ties. Keller, who has in the past had a penchant for extreme sports, doesn’t seem intimidated by his sometimes-precarious positioning.

“I’ve done worse,” said Keller with a smile. “I’ve got my brain bucket on so I’ll be all right. I build houses for a living, so I just figured I’d build one out of ladders.”

As of this writing, more than 100 ladders have been collected for the project, including several from Joie Horton’s PCMS 8th grade art class, which are made entirely out of popsicle sticks.

“I’m just so pleased with all the people I’ve met in gathering ladders and suggesting they lend a ladder,” said FAC board member Terrie Sternberg. “We really are a blessed community.”

“Together We Rise: Pulaski is about bringing people’s hopes and dreams together into one whole visual image,” added FAC Executive Director Becky Lattuca.

Pulaski’s Mayor Shannon Collins came to the park on Wednesday to introduce himself to Charlie Brouwer.

“I want to thank you for your artwork,” said Collins as he extended his hand. “I’m glad that we’ve got one here.”

“Thanks for lending us your business for advertisement,” Brouwer responded.

Collins has had a small ladder sculpture erected in front of his business for the past several days, as a means of promoting the project.

Those interested in taking part in this communal art installation can still do so by bringing their ladder(s) to Jackson Park from 3 till 7 p.m. on Friday, May 5 and from 3 till 6 p.m. on Saturday,  May 6.

The last ladder will be added to the Together We Rise: Pulaski outdoor art installation at 6 p.m.

At that time, the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce will perform a ceremonial ribbon cutting and the Greater Pulaski Junior Appalachian Musicians (GRAPeJAM) will play a few tunes to mark the occasion.

In addition, several county leaders will likely be on hand to say a few words about Pulaski County’s latest artistic endeavor.

“I’m thinking of a slogan I learned and that is ‘We’re here because we like it here,’ said Brouwer. “It’s not a depressed community. People are here because they want to be here. I feel like Pulaski definitely has that spirit.”

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