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Arts Focus: Artistic traditions passed to a grandson shape the re-sculpting of Compassion

This column is sponsored by Arlington Arts/Arlington Cultural Affairs, a division of Arlington Economic Development.

Fifty-five years of time and weather exposure had taken their toll on Compassion, the 1969 sculpture by Una Hanbury installed at the intersection of Wilson and Clarendon Boulevards at Courthouse Road.

When a re-creation of the artwork by sculptor Colin Poole was installed on Tuesday, December 12, it marked more than an ordinary installation. “Una Hanbury was my grandmother, mentor and hero,” said Poole. “Some of my earliest memories are of her studio… My first monumental bronze was a collaboration with her and now, many decades later, we collaborate once again.”

The surface of the concrete sculpture had eroded to the extent that it was unrecognizable. Seeing the need for restoration, Arlington County, Greystar Real Estate Partners, and the family of Una Hanbury worked together to determine how the sculpture could be saved. Due to the condition of the original sculpture, two independent conservators agreed that it would be perilous to move and attempt to repair the sculpture. As an alternative approach, Una Hanbury’s grandson, Colin Poole, a professional artist who apprenticed under Hanbury, offered to undertake the task of recreating Compassion.

Using his grandmother’s sculpting tools and referencing other sculptures she had crafted during that era, Poole skillfully reproduced the surface textures, and the renewed form was cast in bronze for longevity. Poole digitally scanned the weathered concrete sculpture, milled a replica in foam, and enveloped it in clay. Drawing upon Hanbury’s bronze maquette and photos of the sculpture when it was first installed, Poole was able to recreate the missing details of its likeness.

The 1969 sculpture was not part of the County’s Public Art Collection as it did not originate through a site plan community benefit negotiation or a direct County commission. It was a gift to the County from the Jaycees that long predated the County’s Public Art Program, which will celebrate its 40th Anniversary in 2024. Created to convey a message of compassion for others, may this sculpture’s renewal also strengthen our resolve to spread kindness and empathy in our community, and throughout the world.

About Colin Poole

Colin Poole was born in Washington, D.C. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Connecticut College with a concentration in metal sculpture. He continued his professional education apprenticing with master sculptor Una Hanbury, metal sculptor David Smalley and master printmaker Lou Stovall. Known for his classically-inspired contemporary realism, Poole’s bronze sculptures and oil paintings have been exhibited throughout the United States and Europe and his corporate client list reads as a “who’s who” of Fortune 500 companies.

About Arlington Public Art

Arlington Public Art directly commissions artworks integrated into the County’s capital improvement projects, coordinates artworks commissioned by real estate developers as part of the site plan process and assists community groups to initiate public art projects on public property. We also partner with local arts and community organizations, artists and businesses to present interpretative projects, temporary artworks, exhibitions and more. Arlington Public Art is a program of Arlington Arts/Arlington Cultural Affairs.

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