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
— 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 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.'”
It might now be an empty grassy space off of Columbia Pike, but in a few months this site will be home to a giant white spike that serves as a gateway to Arlington County.
Construction is set to begin at the southwest corner of Columbia Pike and S. Jefferson Street on The Pike, a large-scale piece of public art first commissioned nearly a decade ago. The sculpture is expected to be completed by the spring.
Foundation work is first up, beginning with surveying and site utility checks, Jim Byers of Arlington Cultural Affairs tells ARLnow.
Construction starts this week on foundation for @ARL_arts public art sculpture at Columbia Pike and S Jefferson. Most work will be 9am-4pm weekdays. Expect intermittent lane sidewalk closures. "The Pike" will be installed by spring. https://t.co/eNz0cKsC8Z pic.twitter.com/nsRqfagRhN
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) November 15, 2021
To facilitate the work, there will be intermittent lane and sidewalk closures on both Columbia Pike and S. Jefferson Street. Construction will “generally” be between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“Weather permitting, construction of the foundation is anticipated to be complete in December,” writes Byers.
After the completion of the foundation and a month-long concrete curing process, the sculpture itself will be installed. That’s expected to happen in early 2022.
The Pike will become part of the Arlington Public Arts’ permanent collection.
The sculpture is being made from a “reclaimed 50-foot tall wind turbine wing” and is supposed to represent a toll gate, in homage to when Columbia Pike was a toll road. The artwork’s location near the border of Arlington and Fairfax counties serves as a representative “gateway,” the county says.
The base of the sculpture will be studded with nearly 5,000 coins from all over the world, collected from county residents. The coins are another nod to Columbia Pike’s history as a toll road.
The Pike will also have lights around its base to illuminate it at night.
The sculpture was designed by Donald Lipski, who in 2017 explained he was inspired by wind turbines, toll gates, and the pike as a spear-like weapon.
“It’s just put up as this big beautiful thing. It’s a found object, it’s recycled, it’s emblematic of wind energy, it’s emblematic of a Pike, but one that’s vertical, one that’s in the open position and says, ‘Come on in. Everybody is welcome. You don’t have to pay a toll even though it used to be a Pike’,” Lipski said at a talk at the Columbia Pike Library at the time.
Back then, there were some objections to the process and design. The Arlington Mill Civic Association criticized the lack of public input and the Douglas Park Civic Association president noted that a blade and a toll gate were not great community representations.
Columbia Pike resident and ARLnow opinion columnist Chris Slatt, meanwhile, opined on Twitter that The Pike follows what appears to be the county’s preference for spikey, vertical sculptures which “would hurt King Kong if he stepped on it.”
See also: pic.twitter.com/7BItiHaq2F
— Chris Slatt (@alongthepike) November 15, 2021
The sculpture construction and installation has been included as part of the Columbia Pike Multimodal Improvement Project, a multi-year series of street improvements and utility upgrades along the entire stretch of roadway from the Fairfax border to just before the Pentagon.
The design, fabrication, and installation of The Pike is expected to cost about $250,000, writes Byers, “which is less than 1% of the total construction budget of $37 million for this portion of the Columbia Pike Multimodal Improvement Project.”
When the sculpture is completed next year, an celebration will be planned in coordination with the Columbia Pike Partnership.
A sugar maple has turned into a breathtaking wood-carved sculpture.
It’s on a side yard of Mary Maruca’s home on N. Park Drive, in the Arlington Forest neighborhood near Lubber Run Amphitheater.
“The decision to create the sculpture came as I wrestled with the pain of taking down the last of the three old trees that had lived in my yard before I bought my house,” she tells ARLnow.
Sugar maples can live for hundreds of years, and Maruca estimates this was one was a mere 80 years old. But an arborist diagnosed a fungus on it, so she needed to intervene due to its location between her and her neighbor’s homes.
Days before she was going to have the tree removed, she thought about turning it into a sculpture and reached out to Mallon. The timing seemed magical.
Maruca was always struck by illustrator Arthur Rackham’s depiction of Daphne’s escape, and Mallon did his own research, too. Mallon has turned dead and felled trees into sculptures of animals and more. He and Maruca collaborated with their ideas before the artist turned the tree into the art.
“After Andrew completed the sculpture, I also had a sense of another level of its significance — that it also made a state about times of change and what they require of us,” Maruca said. “Indeed, forms may change but beauty remains, and struggle is definitely part of that process.”
Though Daphne is depicted in a state of undress, unlike Rackham’s depiction Mallon gave her some strategic coverings, using meticulously sculpted leaves and part of the tree trunk. That should be more palatable to neighbors than the famous topless mermaid sculpture in Leeway-Overlee — the work of a Frederick, Md. sculptor — which attracted national media attention before being cut down in 2011.
Photos via Andrew Mallon/Facebook
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