PRINCETON: New apartment complex sculpture pays tribute to Albert Einstein

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"Einstein's brain" by Pennsylvania sculptor Patrick Strzelec is made of steel and rises 17 feet into the air as it greets visitors as they enter the AvalonBay development from Witherspoon Street.

By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Albert Einstein died in the now since demolished Princeton Hospital where an expensive apartment development was built in its place, but his memory will live on there thanks to a sculpture unveiled Tuesday.
“Einstein’s brain” by Pennsylvania sculptor Patrick Strzelec is made of steel and rises 17 feet into the air as it greets visitors as they enter the AvalonBay development from Witherspoon Street. The abstract piece of art pays tribute to Princeton’s most famous citizen, who made the community his adopted home from the early 1930s until his death in 1955.
During a program inside the lobby of AvalonBay (https://www.avaloncommunities.com/new-jersey/princeton-apartments/avalon-princeton), representatives of the developer, the Arts Council of Princeton and others touched on the steps leading to commissioning the public art and finding the right artist, not to mention reflecting on the life of the man the artwork honors.
Four years ago, AvalonBay contacted the Arts Council of Princeton to commission public art at the site, the Arts Council said. The project started under the watch of former Arts Council executive director Jeff Nathanson, who came back to provide some of the history.
“There were a whole number of community members who, really, in a private but very important process, pushed for there to be an art component to this development,” he said.
“I just want to mention that AvalonBay embraced the idea of a public sculpture commission,” Nathanson said. “Nobody forced Avalon or the Arts Council or the community to commission a work of art. Ultimately, it was voluntary.”
Strzelec, a Rutgers University art professor and awarding winning artist, was chosen by a selection committee of residents and others who reviewed proposals for what would be a partially federally funded project. Costs were not disclosed.
“This was a big, big opportunity, and I was totally surprised to get it,” Strzelec said later.
“This was a long haul,” AvalonBay Vice President Jon Vogel said. “But the project and the work speaks for itself. And it will be enjoyed by the public for many years to come.”
During the program, Einstein’s life was remembered, including by a Princeton woman who grew up in town when Einstein lived here. Local historian Shirley Satterfield, of Clay Street, came to know him through her mother, who worked at the Institute for Advanced Study, where Einstein was on the faculty.
“And he used to take me for walks,” she said. “But I remember him holding my hand taking me around the Institute. He had all this hair and sandals, but he didn’t speak very much.”
She recalled him as a great humanitarian. When the Nassau Inn would not let the visiting opera singer Marian Anderson have a room because she was black, Einstein took her in at his house.
He died April 18, 1955, at the age of 76, with his brain removed, studied and “distributed around the world,” said Vogel, who appeared to get a little emotional.
“Today, his brain returns to Princeton,” Vogel said. “AvalonBay is proud to call it home.”