Seward Johnson’s “Man on the Street” exhibition takes Rowan Boulevard by storm


Editor’s Note: The statues come from the Seward Johnson Atelier, who teamed up with Nexus, the company that joins Rowan and Glassboro together through its properties.

If you have noticed a multitude of statues stretched across Rowan Boulevard, you have likely wondered why they are there and who built them. The statues come from the Seward Johnson Atelier, a company funded by Johnson himself. The group has teamed up with Nexus, the company that joins Rowan and Glassboro together through its properties.

Seward Johnson began creating these sculptures, a collection titled “Man On The Street” in the 1980s. He created over 450 different compositions, with each composition having the ability to cast eight statues. While this makes room for a potential eight pieces per type of statue, each would be different as they are all painted by hand – making each piece unique. As you pass by these statues, stop and take a closer look. Each statue is composed of small intricate details a passerby may not notice at first glance.  

Program officer at the Seward Johnson Atelier, Lynn Declemente Losavio, shared the goals of Johnson’s foundation.

 “We put exhibitions out into the world and help create connectivity within communities and like, really engage communities to activate the space by using the artwork. So, the artwork becomes kind of a catalyst to amplify all the really wonderful things that are already happening at a campus,” said Losavio. Johnson’s statues appear to be holding true to their purpose around the Boulevard as well.

Can Do! (Rosie the Riveter) 

Seward Johnson. Can Do! © 2015 The Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc. 

This Rosie the Riveter statue can be seen amongst Rowan’s collage of remembrance for the Centennial celebration facing High Street on the green. Looking closely, there is a detailed pin placed upon her collar. 

Cloud Watching (man lying on ground with arms behind head) 

Seward Johnson. Cloud Watching © 1992 The Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc. 

Located directly behind the Mick Parking Garage, you can find a man lounging on the grass appearing to gaze at the clouds above, clad in his blue and white striped shirt. Make sure not to miss the detail of his sunglasses laid on his chest and his shoe slightly hanging off his foot. 

Holding Out (woman with grocery bags) 

Seward Johnson. Holding Out © 1987 The Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc. 

This statue depicts an older woman carrying a bag filled with groceries in one hand, as well as some other shopping bags in the other. The fine detail of the veins in her hand accompanied by her gold wedding band and watch help to tell a story, but what that story could be is open to interpretation. She stands not far from Rosie the Riveter, on a pathway on the green.

Inner World, Outer World (man reading newspaper) 

Seward Johnson. Holding Out © 2014 The Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc. 

Not far past Rowan’s Welcome Center on Rowan Boulevard, there is a bench. Seated on the right side of the bench is a man clad in a cream bucket hat, glasses, and an orange plaid button-down. In his hand, a newspaper is placed, but look closely at this one. The paper is designed specifically to explain the statues and highlight Glassboro and Rowan Boulevard. 

“I have often used the newspaper in my sculptures to make a kind of subtle joke – to disguise the fact the figure was not a living human – in the same way, that some people use the newspaper as a wall to hide the fact that they are wanting to hide from people around them. A shield to say ‘not now – I need my time alone.’” – Seward Johnson 

Time’s Up (policeman writing a ticket) 

Seward Johnson. Time’s Up © 1983 The Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc. 

If you’re not paying attention, this statue can definitely catch you by surprise, you may even think this is a living person at first glance. Placed directly outside 220 Rowan Boulevard, this officer is in the process of writing a ticket. Quite fitting for the ever-elusive Rowan parking tickets plenty of students have received over the years. 

Yum Yum (girl eating sandwich) 

Seward Johnson. Yum Yum © 1983 The Seward Johnson Atelier, Inc. 

Places outside of LaScala’s Fire is the statue of a young girl enjoying a burger, sitting with her shoes off. There isn’t much else to this statue, sweet and simple. 

Seward Johnson’s art has left a mark.

“Putting a lot of interesting people together, that have different points of view, to reach the same goal… That’s really what part of his legacy is, that sphere of collaboration and innovation and pushing boundaries, and really trying to see what’s possible,” Losavio said.

Johnson’s goal was to get people talking, and “The Man On The Street” exhibit is doing just that. 
Johnson’s legacy is not only left through his art but also has a history to Rowan University. He has held exhibits in the past, leading him to earn an honorary doctorate of fine arts degree from Rowan in 2001. There is even a study abroad-type scholarship in his name for art students. While the Seward Johnson Atelier is currently not working with Rowan University, they hope to soon – possibly leading to more statues around campus. There has additionally been talk between Nexus and the Atelier for a Spring showcase. So, be on the lookout for more interesting statues.

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