Press Club

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.

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.”

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.

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A sugar maple has turned into a breathtaking wood-carved sculpture.

Local artist Andrew Mallon, known for similar artwork in the area, created the Greek mythological scene that shows when Daphne fled from Apollo and turned into a tree.

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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Morning Notes

Board Shelves Pike Housing Proposal — “Arlington County Board members on Oct. 17… [removed] from consideration a staff proposal to change rules governing affordable housing on Columbia Pike. Board members, who had weathered intense community skepticism of the proposal when it first was heard in June, had placed the proposal back on their October agenda, and had recommendations from both the Planning Commission and county manager to approve it. But when critics again suited up to do battle, board members threw in the towel.” [InsideNova]

Another Top Bond Rating for County — “For the 20th year in a row, all three credit ratings agencies have reaffirmed Arlington County’s debt ratings of Aaa/AAA/AAA — the highest possible rating. Arlington is one of just 48 counties in the United States, and one of nine in Virginia, to receive this designation.” [Arlington County]

Amazon Donates to Antiracism Effort — “Amazon.com Inc. has donated $100,000 to Arlington County’s antiracism initiative. The company, which is setting up a headquarters in the Northern Virginia county, made the donation Oct. 14 and the county board will vote on whether or not to accept the funds on Tuesday.” [Washington Business Journal]

New Sculpture at Arlington Nat’l Cemetery — “A new sculpture honoring military women and military working dogs was unveiled outside Arlington National Cemetery. The life-size bronze sculpture called ‘The Pledge’ is being placed at the Women In Military Service For America Memorial, located at Arlington National Cemetery’s entrance.” [WTOP, DCist]

Arlington Woman Featured as Face of COVID — “One of those laid off was Serenety Hanley, whose career in digital communications included a stint in the White House under President George W. Bush. The 45-year-old single mother was let go from a retail job in March and now makes a living by shopping for Instacart… Hanley said she still can barely make ends meet.” [Thomson Reuters Foundation]

Va. Ventilator Usage Declines — “The number of Virginians being treated on ventilators for COVID-19 fell to a new low Monday, and case levels also declined somewhat from recent trends. The Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association reported that just 81 patients were being treated statewide on ventilators, down from 95 the day before and the fewest since the association began publicly reporting COVID-19 data in early April.” [InsideNova]

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