The eyes have it. A new art installation featuring interactive LED-lit eyes launched today at the final Ballston Farmers Market of the season.
The display is called “The Eyes of Ballston” and users interact with it through their mobile device. The concept is that five characters live in the tree in the middle of Welburn Square — the baby, the grannie, the flirt, the grump and the raver — and they look at users through the interactive eyes.
Visitors stand near the tree and answer a character’s questions on their mobile device, to which the character responds via the eyes. The character will display different emotions depending on the user’s answer. They can perform numerous actions, including crying, winking and blowing a kiss. Each character has a circadian rhythm, so they’re not all awake and interacting with people at all hours of the day.
“I want them [users] to have fun and interact and enjoy public art, and understand that a great piece of public art is great for place-making and bringing people together,” said artist Lola Lombard, who came up with the eyes concept. “It’s showing them it’s OK to have a little fun. I like my artwork to always have a sense of humor and I think this does that.”
More than 3,000 LED lights, hundreds of feet of wiring, a metal structure and a Linux-based computer make up the project’s technical components.
“It’s really nice to make this stuff as art,” said Branden Hall, whose role focused on the electronic aspects of the art display. “It’s nice to make people smile, I really enjoy that.”
The display is part of the Ballston BID’s “Public Displays of Innovation” series, which also includes the lifeguard chairs placed throughout Ballston.
“We want to bring the amazing creativity and imagination of the people who live and work in Ballston to the street level,” said Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone. “We weren’t even sure at first if it could be done. I didn’t realize it was going to be this cool. It makes you stop to think about how you interact with your neighborhood.”
Sen. Tim Kaine showed up at the farmers market, campaigning for County Board candidate Alan Howze. He checked out the electronic eyes and said he likes the idea of having more public art in communities.
“Why not make communities beautiful?” Kaine said. “I think art, and it doesn’t have to be expensive, I think it makes people feel better about the place where they live.”
The interactive eyes will be in Welburn Square through November.
Passersby along 14th Street N. in Virginia Square should not be alarmed by what appears to be a black bear climbing a tree on the street — it’s just a new carving from an Arlington artist.
The bear was carved in front of 3600 14th Street N. by Arlington native Andrew Mallon, a 2001 graduate of Washington-Lee High School, carpenter and, for the last two and a half year, the owner of Potomac Tree Sculptures. The bear was commissioned by homeowner Joanne Goode, who has lived in the house since 1958.
The tree is a dying oak that Goode was having workers cut down when, she said, their chainsaw stopped working and the bark was partially stripped off. She said her son told her about Mallon, who says he gave her a discount because the tree is prominently displayed out front. Unlike the famed “busty mermaid” statue that stood along Lee Highway for years before being cut down this spring, Goode wanted the sculpture to be part of the tree.
“I didn’t know the mermaid was a tree, I thought it was just a statue,” she said. “I didn’t want something to look like a statue, I wanted the tree to be there so you knew it was a tree.”
Mallon said the carving is the first publicly visible one he’s done in Arlington, and he’s not done with it. He plans on carving a hawk on top of the tree, a fox, and maybe squirrels and raccoons. Mallon said a bear like Goode’s would normally run one of his customers about $800. It took eight hours in total — six on Sept. 5, two on Sept. 9 — to create.
Mallon uses a chainsaw to carve the sculpture and a blowtorch and sandpaper to achieve the bear’s dark brown color. He said he can carve sculptures into basically any tree, but wouldn’t recommend it for live trees since the process kills the tree.
“If it’s a tree that’s dying, get a tree company to come, cut all the limbs off, and we can come up with something great to put in it,” Mallon said. “There are a lot of designs I haven’t tried yet. I love sea life. I’d love to do a shark or a marlin. I’ve done plenty of turtles, and some bass jumping out of the water.”
In just the first weekend the tree went up, Goode said she had dozens of comments from neighbors and people walking and driving by. All of the comments, she said, have been positive.
“People either parked their cars or drove by and said, ‘Hey, that’s cool, that’s neat, I love it,’” she said. “It’s just unreal the amount of attention it’s gotten.”
Mallon can be reached at 703-919-4835 or at email@example.com.
Man Pleads to Arlington Hospital Rape — A former Virginia Hospital Center employee has pleaded guilty to the rape of a 37-year-old woman at the hospital. The victim was at the hospital to receive a CT scan after falling and hitting her head while drunk. The rapist, 30-year-old Roy Anthony Jones, will be sentenced in October and could spend up to 18 years in prison. [Washington Post]
Construction Permits Filed for Office Tower — JBG Cos. has already filed for construction permits for the new CEB Tower office building in Rosslyn. The 31-story tower is part of JBG’s Central Place project, which also includes a residential tower which is currently under construction. [Washington Business Journal]
Arlington Powerball Winner Claims Prize — Arlington resident Tim Dudgeon has come forward as the winner of a $1 million Powerball prize. Dudgeon bought the ticket at Mia’s Market and Deli at 1607 S. Glebe Road. The store received a $10,000 bonus from the lottery for selling the ticket. [WJLA]
Vihstadt Pushes for Greater Contract Oversight — After a $7 million streetcar contract was able to bypass a County Board approval process on a technicality, Board member John Vihstadt wants to require all capital improvement contracts valued at $1 million or above to receive Board approval. County Manager Barbara Donnellan is evaluating the proposal. [InsideNova]
Arlington Celebrates Public Art Milestone — Arlington County is celebrating “30 years of Public Art placemaking in our community.” The multi-month celebration will kick off Aug. 1 on Dark Star Park Day, held at 1655 Fort Myer Drive in Rosslyn. [Arlington County]
(Updated at 12:25 p.m.) The future plans for the Ballston Common Mall include demolishing the Macy’s Furniture Store and parts of the current mall to build a 29-story residential tower and an open-air town center along Wilson Blvd, officials announced Monday night.
The 393-unit apartment building, at the corner of Wilson and N. Randolph Street, is projected to be completed by 2017, Ballston Business Improvement District CEO Tina Leone revealed at the BID’s annual meeting last night. Leone said the redevelopment — including a revamp of the retail mix at the mall — will be crucial for the branding of Ballston, which is often closely associated with the increasingly run-down mall.
“The mall hasn’t quite been able to serve our public,” Leone said, noting the mall’s future is the main question she gets asked about the future of Ballston development. “The mall is going to ‘de-mall’ itself. The roof is coming off.”
The mall is owned and operated by Forest City, which purchased the Macy’s Furniture Store last September. Forest City spokesman Gary McManus told ARLnow.com at the time that the mall had planned retail space with more street access in Macy’s place, and those plans now include the residential tower.
The building is expected to have four floors of underground parking and two floors of retail space below the studio, one- and two-bedroom rental apartments. The apartment building and attached parking will have a separate entrance from the restaurants and remaining mall.
Kettler Capitals Iceplex, the main Macy’s store — which will fold in the furniture store on its ground floor — the Sport&Health Club and the Regal Cinemas will all remain in the closed-air section of the mall, which is being rebranded as “Ballston Center.”
Along Wilson Blvd, parts of the mall — which originally opened as the Parkington Shopping Center in 1951 before it was rebuilt and reopened as Ballston Common Mall in 1986 — will be torn down and replaced with an open-air, town center-like plaza. Demolition is expected to begin by late 2015.
“[Forest City] thought about what was going to have the highest impact,” Leone told ARLnow.com, saying the Ballston BID has been “on a very high level” helping to form plans for the mall’s redevelopment. “To make it a town center, this is life-altering for the people who live and work here.”
McManus said that the pedestrian bridge from the mall to the current National Science Foundation headquarters across the street is tentatively slated to be torn down — private conversations between Forest City and Arlington County Board members led the mall owner to remove it from the plans — but an agreement needs to be reached with the NSF building’s property owner before that can happen.
McManus also said that the retail mix in the mall will change, to become more restaurant and entertainment-oriented. It will be aimed at serving the immediate area, not as a mall that brings in most of its shoppers from other areas, despite the fact that it will have “some destination retail, too.”
“We don’t want to compete with Tysons or Pentagon City,” McManus said. “We’ve started this project before, but this time it’s got all the momentum behind it.”
In addition to the four-level, 580,000 square foot mall’s redevelopment, Leone announced plans for changes to public spaces expected this fall, like public art projects, Ballston-branded signs lining the streets and the new Fairfax Drive landscaping ARLnow.com reported on earlier this month.
Among the proposed projects is a redesigned Metro plaza, which Leone said she hopes will include an “interactive light installation” under the Metro canopy. The light installation is being designed in Amsterdam — it will track pedestrians’ movements underneath and project light based on that movement. The Metro plaza is also planned to include an small amphitheater and redesigned bus parking to remove some buses from N. Stuart Street. (more…)
The Crystal City Business Improvement District has commissioned a 215-foot-long, 2,500-square-foot mural to be painted on the Crystal Drive side of the vacant office building at 1851 S. Bell Street.
The “graffiti-style” mural will be painted by the No Kings Collective beginning April 1. According to Crystal City BID President Angela Fox, several artists will paint different parts of the mural during the times when the streets of Crystal City are busiest — during the work day, farmer’s markets, food truck Thursdays and 5K Fridays.
“It’ll just turn into a very vibrant wall like you’ll see in Miami’s Wynwood Art district,” Fox told ARLnow.com. “It’s colorful, it’s bright, it’s experiential. You’re going to watch the evolution of it going from a primed white to all sorts of colors.”
The painting process will take about three-to-four weeks, Fox said, and the mural could be continuously changing until the building is ultimately torn down, to be replaced with a 730,000-square-foot skyscraper.
Photo via Google Maps. Disclosure: Crystal City BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser
A 19-year-old Leeway-Overlee resident took advantage of Arlington’s especially snowy winter to build a massive snow fort in his front yard.
Michael Grieg, who lives on the 6000 block of 22nd Road N., built the fort “by himself using snow shovels, a wheelbarrow, two ladders and recycling bin for a snow block mold,” according to his mother, Cristina. The fort is 12 feet high with an 11-foot-by-11-foot base, she said.
“It was built to be a work of art, he doesn’t often have the opportunity,” Cristina Grieg wrote in an email to ARLnow.com “It took him about 40 hours starting with the first major snow storm.”
The above pictures were sent on Saturday, but the snow fort may not be around for much longer. Temperatures could jump into the 70s by tomorrow afternoon. Mild temperatures this weekend reduced the fort’s height by a foot, Grieg reported Monday morning.
“Still standing, about 11 feet now, but showing wear and tear,” she said.
Photos courtesy Cristina Grieg
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced 59 “Our Town” grant awards totaling more than $4.7 million, and an Arlington project is among the recipients.
Arlington Economic Development-Arlington Public Art has been granted $75,000 to develop a public art project in the planned Nauck Town Square, which is intended to be the anchor for the Nauck Village Center. The County Board must give final approval for the grant as a formality, and that’s expected in September.
“The residents of the Nauck Community are truly thankful to the National Endowment of the Arts for their grant to assist us in planning a Town Square where all can enjoy its benefits and especially learn the history of Arlington County’s oldest African American community dating back to 1844,” said Nauck Civic Association President Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, Jr.
The NEA received 254 applications from across the country for this year’s Our Town grants. Grant amounts ranged from $25,000 to $200,000 with a median grant amount of $50,000.
“It’s very competitive. We’re very excited to be one of 59 chosen from across the country,” said Public Art Administrator Angela Adams.
The Lucky Seven store, which closed after a fire last year, previously occupied the site but was torn down earlier this year. The county had purchased the property at 2406 S. Shirlington Road in 2010 for $1.4 million.
The square eventually will take up the entire block between 24th Road South and South Shirlington Road. The county website says, “It will serve as a gathering place for residents to host a variety of community events and an area to showcase the neighborhood’s rich cultural heritage with its collection of public art.”
Arlington Public Art has commissioned landscape architect and artist Walter Hood to devise the plaza’s final design. Hood will engage Nauck residents and community leaders in the design process to create a plaza that tells the story of the Nauck community and its heritage. Adams credits Hood’s involvement as one of the reasons the NEA considered Arlington for the grant.
“I think that what we’re going to get with Walter’s involvement is a very sophisticated design that continues to make great public spaces here looking contemporary and fresh, but also reflective of the community,” said Adams. “The Nauck community has waited a long time for this.”
Community meetings to discuss the design of the project are expected to start this fall and go into next year. Construction is expected to begin in 2015.
“The County is looking forward to engaging Nauck residents and community leaders in the process of designing the plaza and art elements,” said Helen Duong with the Arlington County Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.
(Updated at 12:15 p.m.) The work of nearly 100 volunteer knitters and crocheters, a group dubbed the “Guerrilla Stitch Brigade,” is now on display for all the world to see in Rosslyn.
A stretch of Rosslyn from the Metro station to Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd) was “yarn bombed” on Sunday, as volunteers affixed their elaborate knits to trees, fences, parking structures and even a piano. Most of the knits — more than 1,000 stitched geometric shapes, which took some 20 weeks to create, affixed to a dozen different objects – are along Wilson Boulevard. The piano, however, is in Artisphere itself.
“The intent of this project is to lead people to Artisphere, Arlington’s visual and performing arts center,” Rosslyn Business Improvement District Executive Director Cecilia Cassidy said in a statement.
The yarn bombing is the the first of three temporary public art projects planned by the Rosslyn BID this spring, the organization said. The other projects include another yarn bomb installation, in an as-yet undisclosed location, and a fiber art installation from artist Rachel Hayes that will adorn Rosslyn’s skywalks on N. Moore Street, Nash Street and Fort Myer Drive.
More Car Window Shooting Arrests — Fairfax County Police arrested two suspects accused of shooting out car windows with BB guns. Both suspects — 19-year-old Alexander Chase and 18-year-old Herbert Reyes-Cartagena — are from Arlington. Chase was arrested last month by the Arlington County Police Department and charged with similar crimes. The suspects are accused of more than 30 window shooting incidents in Fairfax County, and Chase is accused of involvement in 250 cases throughout Northern Virginia. [Washington Post]
Summer Camp Registration Begins — Registration began this morning for the summer camps offered through Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation. Registration can be done via mail, online or by faxing an application to 703-228-4765. Registration by phone or walk-in will begin on February 27.
Lee Highway Art Celebration — The Cherrydale and Maywood neighborhoods held a ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday to celebrate new art on a median at the intersection of Lee Highway and N. Monroe Street (photo above). Local mural artist Jarrett Ferrier submitted the winning proposal for the Lee Highway Art Project. His design consists of panels depicting scenes from around the neighborhoods, such as the Cherrydale Fire Department, Cherrydale Branch Library and a railroad line that used to run along Lee Highway.
Agape Bears Closes in Ballston Mall – Agape Bears, a shop in Ballston Common Mall featuring handmade teddy bears, closed over the weekend after more than 15 years in business. Owners Elizabeth and Bill Taylor are well known not just for the store, but also for donating bears to police and fire stations, as well to victims of disasters. The Taylors plan to still sell the specialty bears online. [WTOP]
The Rosslyn Business Improvement District teamed up with students the Art Institute of Washington to set up temporary decorative planters in the temporary CentralSpace park along Wilson Boulevard. The planters feature artistic wrappers showcasing various Rosslyn-centric images.
The beautification project also included orange “orbs” painted on the sidewalk, which form a “bread crumb trail” from the Rosslyn Metro to Artisphere.
“We are enhancing Rosslyn’s streetscape and creating a sense of place with Artisphere as Arlington’s cultural center,” said Rosslyn BID Executive Director Cecilia Cassidy, in a statement.
“The BID does a great job of beautifying our landscape and public spaces,” said Art Institute of Washington President Todd Cunningham. “I am pleased our students could play a role in that effort.”
In an effort to combine form and function, Arlington has outfitted four conference rooms at the county government building (2100 Clarendon Blvd) with glass panels etched with unique designs by local artist Linn Meyers.
Before the artwork was proposed, the county was already planning to install an industrial film over the glass panels that line the conference rooms, to minimize the “distracting ‘fishbowl effect’” of people constantly walking by and peering inside during meetings. By combining the money set aside for the film installation and an existing fund for new public art in the building, the county was actually able to complete the project “well under budget.”
The artwork was dubbed “Untitled” by Meyers.
“Demonstrating how the inclusion of public art can be a savvy, attractive and economical civic design solution, Untitled is the second of eight major public art projects being delivered in a 12 month period,” said Jim Byers, Cultural Marketing Manager for Arlington Economic Development. “It is part of a broad initiative by Arlington’s Public Art Program to grow capacity in local artists to undertake public art projects.”
The etched panels were installed in three conference rooms on the ground floor of 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, and one conference room on the 3rd floor, near the County Board room. An official dedication for the artwork is planned for 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 10.
State of the County Address — County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman delivered the annual State of the County address in Crystal City yesterday. “All indications are that we are well-positioned for the future,” Zimmerman told the crowd. “Demand is both strong and growing for transit-accessible, walkable urban communities.”[Sun Gazette]
Rosslyn Public Art Walking Tour — Take a self-guided tour of the eclectic pieces of public art around Rosslyn, thanks to a map provided by Arlington’s Cultural Affairs division. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Are Library Lost Item Fees Too High? — An Arlington Public Library user wrote an angry letter to the Sun Gazette after her family lost a library DVD and had to pay about twice as much to replace it as it would have cost to buy it new at Target. “I would greatly appreciate an investigation of the county library finances,” Janet Dorn told the paper. The library has responded to the letter on its blog, arguing that its materials supplier charges more than discount stores, partially because each item comes pre-packaged in a library-specific case with call number stickers already attached. [Library Blog]
To that end, a public forum will be held tonight at 6:30 at the the Aurora Hills Community Center at 735 18th Street S.
“An artist has been commissioned to create public art along the corridor,” a flyer advertising tonight’s meeting says. “Join us as we help the artist gain a greater understanding of the Crystal City and Potomac Yard communities so she can develop truly site-specific work that meets the goals of your community.”
Next week another public meeting is scheduled to discuss the transitway itself. That meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. on Monday, June 27, also at the Aurora Hills Community Center.
The Crystal City/Potomac Yard Transit Improvements project will build dedicated bus lanes along Crystal Drive, S. Clark Street and S. Bell Street, often at the expense of on-street parking.
The transitway will eventually be expanded. There are plans for the route to extend south through Potomac Yard and down Jefferson Davis Highway to the Braddock Road Metro station. It will also be extended to the Pentagon City Metro station. The transitway will “set the stage” for a planned Crystal City/Potomac Yard streetcar, planners say.
Construction is expected to begin next year.
Update on 10/15/10: The road tattoo has been rescheduled for Sunday, Oct. 17, TBD reports.
Weather permitting, New York artist Steed Taylor and a team of volunteers will “tattoo” a street in Crystal City on Sunday.
Taylor has painted his road tattoos on streets and paths in the District, New York City, North Carolina, Arizona, and even China. Now, he’s coming to Crystal City to create a tattoo on 18th Street between Bell Street and Crystal Drive.
The tattooing is expected to begin at 7:00 Sunday morning and last several hours. However, the forecast is currently calling for rain on Sunday, which could delay the tattoo creation until next week.