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Hard Bargains, a new public artwork

The Hard Bargains Sculpture celebrates the historical significance of the Articles of Confederation, shines a light on York's role at a critical juncture in our nation's development, and creates an awareness of the importance and continued relevance of issues stemming from the document's creation.


Something new in the world was agreed upon in York, Pennsylvania in the fall of 1777, a step toward a model of governance in which “we the people” grant power to leaders, rather than leaders selectively exercising power from above.

Framed by an awareness of issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion, the artwork acknowledges the many voices and individuals who were represented, and not represented, at this historic moment in the forging of the United States from 13 separate colonies.


Seen from a distance this sculpture presents a gathering of blocks under construction, reminding us that this moment in history was a creative process (and still not finished). Seen close up one discovers expressive bronze figures, glass graphic panels, headline text posing questions, and first-person quotes from the individuals who wrote this document considered to be the first U.S. Constitution.


3d design development 
Artwork structure is 316L stainless steel in a matte finish, with full-color laminated glass graphic panels, external and internal color-tunable LED lighting, and surrounding hardscape surface.
From sidewak.jpg
Location - along the Codorus Creek on the landscape of the York History Center.
animated fly through of 3d model 

Thoughts on creating Hard Bargains, a new public artwork for York, Pennsylvania.


Public artwork lives in our shared urban places and landscapes - and sparks awareness, conversation and reflection. Public art is not a thing you hang on the wall, not a museum exhibit, not a device to transmit comprehensive information. Engaging public art projects raise questions and arouses feelings. A public art project can be confusing at first. After engaging with the work over time the viewer may know the motivating inspirations and meanings it seeks to convey.


As a hybrid, public art resides within the creative world of visual art and within the physical constraints of a specific place. Public artwork relies on non-discursive non-verbal visual language, although text and discursive elements may be included. Successful public artwork may honor a specific site’s cultural, environmental, experiential and historical context. Framed within a freely accessible realm, public art leans more toward the experiential and development values of landscape architecture than it does toward studio art or architecture.


The tradition of making public artworks includes: the memorial - an elegiac place or object created to support reflection, memory and to honor an event or individuals significant to a defined community; and 

the monument - often created to mark a moment, celebrate, informs or raises awareness. both of these traditional forms may provide a gathering place for events, or serve as a site for pilgrimage and connection. Expanded contemporary types of public art can provide a calm moment, inject humor or beauty, or shock the everyday with new forms of visual experience.


Realization of a public art project is challenging and messy. Many voices to consider. The pertinent question is not: “Do I like this, or do I not like this?”  Meaningful considerations are: “What does this project bring to mind?  What questions does the artwork elicit?  What feelings does the artwork arouse in the viewer? A public art project can surprise, provoke, be a kick-in-the-pants: “Wow, I want my friends to see this, I’ll tell them to go check it out”.  One mark of success!


Ross Miller

Hard Bargains project artist

August 11, 2023

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