The Liberty Theaters restored chandeliers, elegant paintings and grand architecture had a profound effect on Stanley Marcus when he visited Astoria in 2010.
Marcus, a sculptor in Becket, Mass., was so impressed by the former 1920s movie palace and the community of Astoria that he decided to donate some of his work.
Two of his stainless-steel sculptures were delivered Monday to the theater and placed in an alcove in the lobby while staff and Liberty Theater board members decide where best to place them.
I wanted to make sure they had a really important place to stay, Marcus said. The Liberty Theater is terrific. I really think Astoria is an upcoming community for the arts and I wanted to be apart of it.
Were honored to have it here, said Rosemary Baker-Monaghan, executive director of the Liberty. The organizations board voted unanimously to accept the artists donation.
Marcus created the pieces in the 1980s as part of a touring exhibition called The Cocktail Party. The exhibition included a hostess, guests, musicians, servers and the guest of honor, The Lionized One, which was donated to the theater with a bench called the Praying Court.
On the throne sits a god-like lion figure meant to be praised and idolized, while the figures on the bench face him and clasp their hands with awestruck expressions.
Thats the only reason why they exist, Baker-Monaghan said. The lion is just here for them to adore. In the middle of the bench, steel block letters spell the word revere.
In 2010, Dr. Bill Armington, past president of the Liberty board, and his wife Deborah, met Marcus and his wife Rebecca. Armington arranged a tour of the Liberty when the two visited Astoria.
Baker-Monaghan said she spent a few hours showing Marcus the theater. He just loved it, she said.
Deborah Armington said Marcus fell in love with the theater and the city when he visited. She described Marcus as an artist who likes to use satirical elements in his sculptures.
In his view, The Lionized One is the person that is invited to a gathering by the hostess in order to draw in and impress the other guests, she said. This sculpture represents the guy who is full of himself, who expects to be worshipped, and sits back waiting for admiration. It is Stanleys whimsical take on celebrity and social status and seems a fitting piece for the Liberty, where we all go to admire the artists that perform there.
Everyone interprets it a different way, but I see it as a nice parody for theaters, Baker-Monaghan said. Its about not getting too big for your britches, she added. I think it could translate across the board.
Marcus said he was influenced by David Smith, the 20th-century sculptor who used stainless-steel to create an aesthetic focused on geometric shapes. Marcus wrote of Smith in a 1983 book, David Smith: The Sculptor and his Work.
Theres a time when youve got to go out on your own and do what you have to, he said about his own work and influence.
The Armingtons paid for the $2,000 shipping cost of the sculptures, which were picked up from Marcus in Massachusetts.
Shlomo Ben-Yaacov, who owns and operates Artisan Shipping Co. in Blooming Grove, N.Y., drove five days to bring them to Astoria. Ben-Yaacov set up the pieces Monday in their new home. Some visitors to the theater were quickly intrigued by the pieces and asked what they were.
Were going to put up a little thing about the sculpture and the artist, said Baker-Monaghan.
Now she said, its now just a matter of figuring out the best place to put the artwork in the lobby for the best public viewing.