The Pike, a large-scale work of public art, is finally being installed this week at the southwest corner of Columbia Pike and S. Jefferson Street, near the county line bordering Fairfax.
On Wednesday morning, ARLnow saw the 50-foot-tall reclaimed wind turbine wing lying horizontally while waiting for a crane to raise it on an already-installed steel base dotted with thousands of coins from around the world.
Installation of "The Pike" by artist Donald Lipski has begun! The base of the sculpture is studded with thousands of coins from all over the world collected from Arlington County residents
Learn more: https://t.co/KSCYco8eli@columbiapikeva @StayArlington #arlingtonarts pic.twitter.com/CRaYAnoQ2a
— ArlingtonVA Arts (@ARL_Arts) May 24, 2022
The physical raising of the wind turbine onto the base is scheduled for later in the afternoon, said Jim Byers of Arlington Arts. The sculpture will be fully installed by the end of the week, Byers said, with no impact on traffic and “minimal” impact to pedestrian access. It will have “a slight ‘intrusion’ upon part of the sidewalk,” he noted.
An official ribbon cutting ceremony is set for the fall.
The intent of the artwork is to conjure images of a medieval spear known as a pike being repurposed into a toll gate, in a nod to Columbia Pike’s history as a toll road.
Embedded in the base is nearly 5,000 coins from 117 countries collected from county residents. The international currency is meant to reinforce Columbia Pike’s reputation for being a “world in a zip code.” The sculpture’s location near the border of the two counties is also supposed to serve as a symbolic “gateway.”
The concept was first conceived about a decade ago and construction began back in November.
The work of art was designed by Donald Lipski. He wanted to create something that stood out and united both ends of the county’s portion of Columbia Pike.
“I knew that I wanted to make something that was really vertical that you could see from far away,” he told ARLnow today, standing in front of the two pieces of the sculpture. “I also thought about book-ending the Air Force Memorial at the other end.”
He used wind turbines not simply because of their “beautiful shape” but because it’s a reminder of how we as a society need to shift over to more renewable resources. Using collected coins as decoration on the base was something Lipski has done before, but says it takes on special meaning here in Arlington due to the county’s international population.
“People could walk by here 20 years from now and say to their child, ‘Look, there are coins from Bolivia that I gave when you were just a little baby,’ Lipski says. “I love that.”
Back in 2017, when Lipski first debuted his design, there were some concerns around the public engagement process and the design. The Arlington Mill Civic Association expressed disappointment that they weren’t given ample opportunity to provide input into the design, despite assurances. Douglas Park Civic Association members said that tolls, gates, and blades didn’t make for proper neighborhood symbols.
“Recognizing Arlington Mill is the county’s most impoverished neighborhood, we firmly object to the implementation of any form of blade as representative of our community,” leaders wrote in a letter. “Further, turnpike gates are never welcoming. Their purpose and design is to stop traffic. They disrupt the flow. Surely this is not how Arlington County’s Southwestern Gateway should be depicted.”
The project also took close to a decade to come to fruition, a timeline that was “really long” compared to Lipski’s other projects.
Much of the delay had to do with the sculpture’s construction and installation being included as part of the Columbia Pike Multimodal Improvement Project, a multi-year series of street improvements and utility upgrades along the roadway that extends from the Fairfax County border to just before the Pentagon.
The total project cost for The Pike is about $360,000, according to a county public art budget document. That includes a developer contribution of about $60,000.
Lipski hopes that his art will become something of a county landmark.
“I love it when a piece of mine becomes something that’s part of people’s lives,” he says. “I know there will be people who live in Arlington and.. they’re coming home and they’ll see it and [say], ‘Oh, here we are. We’re home.'”
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