Together We Rise: Pulaski officially opens

5 12 Together We Rise Ribbon cut

Photo by David Pynn

Fine Art Center board members and community leaders mark the completion of the Together We Rise: Pulaski ladder sculpture with a ribbon cutting ceremony. From left: Nikki Pynn, John Ross, Scotia Marshall, William Paine, Terrie Sternberg, Adam Hall, Jeff Reeves, Becky Lattuca, Charlie Brouwer, Molly Keller, Bill Cunningham and Shannon Collins.


5 12 together GRAPeJAM at Togethe We Rise Pulaski Ribbon Cutting

Photo by Adam Hall

GRAPeJAM students and instructors entertained the crowd before and after the ribbon was cut for Pulaski’s latest ladder sculpture.



The Patriot


A ribbon cutting ceremony, hosted by the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, formally marked the completion of the Together We Rise: Pulaski ladder sculpture in Pulaski’s Jackson Park.


The Fine Arts Center for the New River Valley invited artist Charlie Brouwer to construct the ladder sculpture and he, in turn, enlisted the help of fellow artist Barry Keller to help him complete the task.


Members of the Greater Pulaski Junior Appalachian Musicians (GRAPeJAM) began the occasion on a musical note, as students and instructors played traditional Appalachian tunes before the ribbon was cut.


Bill Cunningham, President of the Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, acted as Master of Ceremonies for the event. Cunningham jokingly informed the crowd that Town Manager Darlene Burcham had issued a building permit for the ladder sculpture and so it was ‘entirely up to code.’ This, along with a remark about how County Supervisor Laura Walters had ordered perfect weather conditions for the ceremony, elicited chuckles from the crowd on this decidedly upbeat occasion.


Other notable individuals who were present include Pulaski Mayor Shannon Collins, town council member Jeremy Clark, Pulaski County Supervisor Jeff Reeves, Dublin town council member Debbie Lyons and Pulaski County School Board member Paige Cash.


The Fine Art Center for the N.R.V. Executive Director Becky Lattuca thanked the Town of Pulaski for ‘allowing us to use the park because it wouldn’t fit inside the Fine Art Center.’ Lattuca then made a point of thanking AARP Blacksburg and Thrivent Financial for their financial backing for the project.


Pulaski Mayor Shannon Collins had this to say.


“When we’re working together … when we’re all together, we make something better. One ladder will fall over but you put us all together and we can do miracles. We can make so much more out of this community and I love this community and I love you all for coming out. This is family, we’re all family. We’ve just got to work together and just keep pushing. People don’t like certain things. That’s okay. They may not but we’re gonna keep going. We’re gonna keep pushing and we’re gonna keep making it better.”


Collins then added this note.


“I hope that no one has anything very high in their house right now because there’s no ladders in any houses around here. I bought two new ones just in case but thank you all for lending your ladders and thank you for being here today. And thank you, Charlie. Without your vision. We wouldn’t have this.”


Next, County Supervisor and member of the F.A.C. board, Jeff Reeves took his turn at the microphone.


“What this symbolizes to me is when we come together, we can be stronger, more resilient, and reach higher places …What I would like to do today is challenge everybody here, that when you see this, that each of us would think about what we can do as individuals to make our community stronger and better. Whether it’s volunteering with Daily Bread or Go Pulaski or Friends of Peak Creek or your local church or becoming a volunteer fire fighter … whatever it is. Let this help remind us, what we can and should be doing.”


“I saw a sign today that said, ‘Bloom where you’re planted,’” Reeves continued. “Well, we’re planted in Pulaski County, so let’s bloom here and make this a much prettier and happier place to live.”


Charlie Brouwer, who first conceived the ladder sculpture idea more than a decade ago, had his say.


“A long time ago, when I was a little kid, we borrowed a ladder from someone down the street to do something. Now that I’m an adult, I think back on that and it occurs to me that, people trusted each other when they were doing that. That’s what trust means because somebody allows you to take something because you know they’re going to bring it back. Then I started wondering if you could expand that to a whole community.”


“After doing this for many years, I found that this idea of trust is there with every community. We want to trust each other and if we give each other opportunities to do that, something like this can happen. Without that it won’t happen.”


Together We Rise: Pulaski is Brouwer’s 15th  ladder project to date. He built what he believed would be his final ladder sculpture 6 years ago. Brouwer decided that Issues with his health, particularly involving his eyesight, would prevent him from taking on any more projects but he eventually changed his mind.


“Becky Lattuca had asked me if I could do a project like that in Pulaski and I said no, I can’t,” Brouwer explained. “I can only teach a group of people and if they’ve got the hutzpah, they could do it.  I found that Pulaski was the perfect place to do it. What I really got out of this project is that sense that this idea could be passed on and other people could take it and do it themselves. So, to see that happen, as an artist and as an old man, was really a great gift.”


With that, Brouwer attached the last ladder to the structure. This was the ladder that Barry Keller used to fasten the 200 plus ladders that make up the Together We Rise: Pulaski sculpture. Keller, who ‘did all the serious climbing for the sculpture’ was not in attendance for Saturday’s event.


With that, Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shannon Ainsley brought out her oversized scissors to cut the inaugural ribbon for Together We Rise: Pulaski.

The 100 or so people gathered for the ceremony let out a small cheer as Brouwer cut the red ribbon marking the entrance to the sculpture, which allows individuals to walk through this unique work of art.


The Greater Pulaski Junior Appalachian Musicians concluded the event by playing a special version of John Denver’s ‘Country Roads,’ wherein the lyrics ‘West Virginia’ were replaced with ‘Pulaski Virginia.’


The Together We Rise: Pulaski ladder sculpture will remain standing in Jackson Park for the entire month of May and will be disassembled on Friday, June 2. Those who loaned ladders for the project may pick them up later that afternoon or from the Fine Arts Center for the NRV at 21 West Main Street, during business hours the following week.