Utica Zoo adds sculptural sign to the Parkway

Utica Zoo has installed a massive sculptural sign at the entrance featuring popular animals and native
landscapes. Incorporated into this steel structure is a LED video board which allows for dynamic visual programming. This art installation was designed and created by Joel Grimaldi of Metallogix.

The original idea was spearheaded and fully funded by local philanthropists Martha and Richard Widdicombe. Martha and Richard wanted to bring more people to the Utica Zoo via an attractive form of signage.

“Utica has a fabulous tradition of art along the Memorial Parkway, and I feel that new art should be collected and displayed in the City of Utica,” said Richard Widdicombe. “The zoo needed more presence and some people take it for granted, or forget that it is right in their backyard.”

Richard teamed up with Grimaldi, who specializes in large heat recovery air handling units built for military bases, large hospitals, schools, etc. Metallogix also does custom specialized metal fabrication including signs, gates, displays and sculptures; some which can be seen locally. He came up with a small metal prototype which was shown to Utica’s Scenic & Historic Preservation Commission and City Officials for approval. From there, a two-year process of creation involving Richard Nadeau of Frankfort who helped scale up the model to its final size.

“Being brought up in this area, I was excited to create and develop this project,” said Grimaldi. “The enthusiasm and collaboration among my employees made this a success.”

Approximately 12 Metallogix employees worked to make this artistic creation a reality, putting in thousands of man hours in the process. Also, Mike Evke from Eversan Signs, a local digital sign producer contributed significantly to this project. Their electronic brand of video board is sold all over the world and is used locally at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The Eversan Signs factory is located in Whitesboro.

Fiber Instrument Sales of Oriskany donated the fiber cables to connect the sign to the zoo’s network, Porta Cabling based in Whitesboro put the cables in place, Total Solutions ensures that the sign works with the computers at the zoo, and Central New York Conservancy contributed all the new landscaping. The Utica Police Department worked extra hard on traffic control during the morning when giant Rig-All cranes and trucks transported the sign to the zoo site.

Richard and Martha formerly of Metropolitan New York City settled in Utica. Richard retired from Stevens Institute of Technology whose career included Art and Technology. After moving to Utica, Richard and Martha met Grimaldi through their involvement with Sculpture Space. They continue to purchase art from local sculptors.

“This project combines my love for technology and sculpture. It’s quite the masterpiece of beauty and communication,” said Richard Widdicombe. “We are very fortunate to have been able to use all local companies on the project. There are a lot of businesses in the Utica area that are hidden treasures.”

“Total Solutions has been working with the Utica Zoo for a number of years to build out the fiber infrastructure and general networking that is the basis for managing and operating the zoo,” said Michael ‘Big Mike’ Morrill, president of Total Solutions in Clinton. “The fiber ties into the network switch at the Gift Shop to facilitate network connection and management of the sign. Because of the distance and line of sight, a fiber connection was the best option.”

“This is the perfect example of what a donor driven project can look like,” said Andria Heath, Utica Zoo’s executive director. “Richard approached us with the idea and funding and we ran with it. It’s a great investment for the zoo and the greater Utica area.”

“The Utica Zoo is one of our region’s most cherished assets and Oneida County is proud to help support its operation and growth,” said Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente, Jr. “This beautiful sign donated by the Widdicombes and designed by Metallogix is a great addition that will help draw even more attention to this wonderful attraction.”

“This beautiful new sign is a unique landmark, encouraging people to visit the Utica Zoo—and also providing a way to promote its many community events,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica. “It is part of a continuing effort to improve what is already an outstanding family attraction, and over the past several years I have been pleased to provide support through legislative grants to its continued revitalization. Local philanthropists, a local company, and a number of local collaborators teamed up to make this sign project a reality to light the way to the Zoo for many years to come.”

“The Utica Zoo is such a landmark attraction in the City of Utica and our region, it is only fitting that the zoo have such a beautiful and outstanding work of art and technology to welcome all those who visit,” State Senator Joseph Griffo said. “I am always proud to fight for whatever state resources I can secure to make our zoo the best it can be, because it truly is one of the many exceptional assets we have that make our community such a great place to live.”

“This artistic structure is just one indication of the attention and passion that our community displays toward the Utica Zoo,” said Congresswoman Claudia Tenney. “In my own personal experience, my mother was deeply involved in the Utica Zoo and instilled a deep gratitude in my family for this tremendous asset in our local community. Contributions such as this benefit the Greater Mohawk Valley Region as a whole and I am proud to represent constituents who are willing to give support of this magnitude.”

“The new sign at the entrance of the Utica Zoo symbolizes the talent, generosity and excitement in our
community,” said Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri. “I thank Mr. Grimaldi for his beautiful work and the Widdicombe’s for their generous donation and many other businesses and partners who made the construction of this sign possible. This improvement will certainly help the Zoo build on its success in attracting more people into our community.”

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