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New artwork hanging in Easthampton Savings Bank

  • Cottage Street Studios artist Eileen Jager of Easthampton uses iridescent glass in her work.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • This is a detail of a love seat created by artist Eileen Jager.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Eileen Jager demonstrates a cutting technique with the iridescent glass she uses in her work.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

Customers visiting Easthampton Savings Bank’s new Loan and Banking Center at 241 Northampton St. will not be able to ignore a new abstract piece of art glinting and gleaming in the lobby. The 150-pound, 4½-by-4½-foot glass mosaic wall-hanging, called “Waterdance,” was created by city artist Eileen Jager specifically for the space.

Jager was selected out of a pool of 30 artists to create the $10,000 work in May after the bank asked local artists to submit proposals for art to be placed in the lobby of the building, which opened in September.

“We were overwhelmed by responses,” Hogan said Wednesday. Members of Easthampton City Arts Plus, a city arts committee, helped bank officials narrow the list of applicants, and finally chose Jager after seeing some of her work in person, Hogan said.

“We were so taken with it,” he said. “Her art is one of a kind.”

Jager, 54, said she has been creating glass art since 1979, but she developed her unique glass mosaic style in 1999. She assembles items ranging from wall hangings to benches and tables from pieces of glass that she cuts from sheets of colored glass — either iridescent or mirrored — and then grouts together.

For “Waterdance,” Jager used matte, iridescent purple-blue glass as well as mirrored glass in similar hues to create an abstract wall hanging that brings to mind ripples, waves and rivers.

“Because of the nature of the material, it’s very alive,” she said in an interview in her studio in the One Cottage Street building. “It’s all about the relationship between the art, the light and the person viewing it.”

Hogan said that is one of the reasons bank officials thought it would be perfect for the lobby of 241 Northampton St., where light pours in from large windows in the back and the front of the building depending on the time of day. Compared to a still life painting, he said, “Waterdance” will evolve with the position of the viewer, the time of day, even the weather.

“It’s fluid and ever changing,” he said. “When an employee or customer walks by the piece, it’s sure to get a wow from every angle.”

Jager usually creates her work on a custom basis for residential clients to put in their homes or gardens. She once made a piece for a hotel in New Jersey, but she said this will be her first “local, public piece.”

“Whatever I create, I want it to be the jewel of that particular environment,” she said.

Employee insurance

City employees may be relieved by the City Council decision last week not to change the way workers negotiate for and receive health insurance.

The council got a standing ovation from a crowd of about 80 workers after it voted 6-2 not to take the option provided by a 2011 state health insurance reform law that allows local governments to change employees’ health insurance plans as long as they maintain the same level of coverage that state employees have.

Supporters say that making it easier to change health plans could save the city money, but employees argued that it would limit their collective bargaining rights and could result in poorer coverage with higher costs.

“I think this was the right thing to do,” said Jason Dunham, head of the city firefighters union and a member of the city’s Insurance Advisory Board.

Changes in insurance have to be approved by each union, which can be a lengthy, difficult process, Tautznik said at the council’s first public hearing on the topic on Nov. 7. The new option sets a 30-day window for unions to negotiate with the city over any proposed changes before a state consultant is called in to work with both sides to decide the issue.

Council President Justin P. Cobb said he could see no evidence the city would save money after reviewing quotes from insurance companies. “I need to know before I do something new that we’re going to be saving money,” he said.

The city gets insurance through the Hampshire County Group Insurance Trust, a part of the Hampshire Council of Governments. Rist said adopting the law might force them to come up with a more competitive plan.

Councilor Joy E. Winnie voted against the change, but warned that the city was not going to stop trying to reduce its health insurance costs. “Within a year or two years, we’re going to be back in this room having the same debate,” she said.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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