File: Matthew Thorsen ©️ Seven Days
"File Under So. Co. Waiting for…" by Bren Alvarez
The towering stack of rusting file cabinets on Burlington's Flynn Avenue, across the street from City Market, Onion River Co-op
, is a popular destination for both locals and tourists. People come from all over to take selfies in front of it — and perhaps add a tag or a sticker. Officially titled "File Under So. Co., Waiting for…" by its creator, architect Bren Alvarez
, it was erected in 2002 for that year's South End Art Hop
. It was supposed to be temporary.
That was 18 years ago. This year, on September 10, the sculpture is going to be moved at last. But fans of the quirky attraction needn't fret; it's not going far.
Standing 40 feet, 9 inches tall and consisting of 11 file cabinets with a total of 38 drawers, the sculpture was conceived and constructed to represent each year that the then-called Southern Connector (So. Co.) had not
been built at that point. Planning for that purported roadway through the South End to downtown began in 1965; the goal was to relieve congestion on nearby Shelburne Road. The city is still promising that its latest iteration, renamed the Champlain Parkway, is going to happen … any day now.
Alvarez said she initially intended for the tower to stand for a month, at which time she planned to move it or deconstruct it. "After 30 days, it seemed to have a life of its own," she said, "and there was no reason to move it."
The tower stands right on the center line of where the parkway is intended to go. Alvarez said she recently got a call from Burlington City Arts
assistant director Sara Katz giving her a heads up: It might be time to move the tower. Perhaps what Alvarez dubbed "ordinary bureaucracy" is chugging along.
It was the impetus she needed to finally take action. But, characteristically, she's making the relocation an art
action. Alvarez said she had a chat with Kevin Owens, CEO and cofounder of Select Design
, a branding and marketing firm at 208 Flynn, which is near the sculpture. The decisions that came out of that conversation were to move the tower 100 feet to the west, install it on a 10-foot pedestal and create an art park around it that would evolve each year going forward.
The plan for this year, which will mostly be in place for the Art Hop, might be described as spawn of the mother tower. "We came up with the idea of a herd of file cabinets," Alvarez said. So far 17 artists and sponsoring businesses have claimed cabinets and will adorn them as they see fit. As of Thursday, August 27, five four-drawer and a pair of squat two-drawer file cabinets were huddled in the parking lot, ready to be claimed.
Pamela Polston ©️ Seven Days
Workers preparing new pedestal for file cabinet sculpture, visible in the background
Alvarez said she will not add cabinets to the original tower, even though nearly two decades more have passed. After all, we're storing information in the cloud now, she pointed out, not on sheets of paper stuffed into file folders.
Alvarez recently went through a languishing cabinet of her own, which she hadn't opened in ages, and found 10 years' worth of paperwork related to the Flynndog
, a gallery she founded in the high-ceilinged front hallway of the 208 Flynn building. She'll mount an exhibit there in November titled "Messages From the Anthropocene" with Tina Escaja
and Patrick O'Shea
, Alvarez said.
Meantime, she'll be using some of that Flynndog paperwork in her new file cabinet piece for the herd, created with artist Marie Davis
. On tower-moving day, there will be a reception — with plenty of room for social distancing. "We'll probably move [the tower] from 1 to 4 p.m.," Alvarez said. "I don't know how long it will take." Concurrently, artist Seb Sweatman
will welcome visitors to his exhibition of abstract paintings in the Flynndog.
Stay tuned for more details as tower-moving day, and South End Art Hop 2020, draw near.