Many Huntsville residents strolling downtown have found themselves curious about the appearance of tall silver arcs reaching skywards in Big Spring Park across from the AC Hotel on Williams Avenue.
The installation of Travelers II, a sculpture designed by artists David Dahlquist and Matt Niebuhr of RDG Dahlquist Art Studios, is officially complete.
The completion is auspicious timing for the latest addition to the City of Huntsville’s public art collection, serving as a southern gateway to Big Spring Park just as its cherry trees spring into full bloom and the city prepares for its 40th Panoply Arts Festival. In the words of the artists:
We are on this rock together
All of us, Travelers
Souls that went before us, and those that will follow
All of us hurtling, spinning, dancing through space
“Our vision is grounded in Huntsville’s history while celebrating the city’s trajectory into the future,” states RDG Dahlquist Art Studios.
The word traveler has several associations, from the indigenous people who first traveled to Big Spring, to innovative newcomers contributing to the city’s growth today. Huntsville’s identity is entwined with the history and the future of space travel, and today, as a global STEM center, the city leads the world as we travel into a tech-driven future.
The sculpture is situated right off Big Spring, which naturally leads to the Tennessee River, a correspondence that further harkens visitors to consider the passage of time, and how Huntsville itself might flow into the future.
Two arrays of steel arcs, ranging from fourteen to sixteen feet high, are punctuated with a constellation of perforations in a manner of starlight. Their stature connects the viewer to the heavens as well as the earth. Also serving as a gathering place, the piece is surrounded by custom polished-concrete benches to encourage social moments. The orbital shape of the benches is inspired by ring ‘travelers’ used to spin cotton. Such ‘travelers’ similarly-shaped grommets may be found embedded in the floorboards of historic textile mills in the area. Lighting is situated around both the benches and sculpture alike, creating interplays of shadow and light at both day and night.
“While both installations are striking during the day, we can’t wait for the public to interact with these new gathering spaces at night in downtown Huntsville,” said Allison Dillon-Jauken, Executive Director of Arts Huntsville. “These nighttime environments really do set a dramatic and serene backdrop for photos and memory-making.”
A selection committee comprised of four community members with related expertise selected the proposal Travelers II in 2019, along with a number of non-voting ex officio members serving in an advisory capacity.
“Artists Dahlquist and Niebuhr brought both the background and experience to complete a large-scale, multi-site public art installation while also creating artworks that tell Huntsville’s aspirational story in a new way,” said Dennis Madsen, City of Huntsville Manager of Urban and Long-Range Planning.
“I wanted the art to be distinctive in comparison to other public art in Huntsville,” explained graphic designer Mark Moore. “The structural nature appealed to me and the scale of it as well as the interplay it will have with light and the sky will make for nice photo opportunities that park goers can enjoy.”
CityCentre Public Art Selection Committee:
- Leslie Lockhart, Visual Artist
- Mark Moore, Graphic Designer and Director of Public Relations, Drake State Technical College
- Abby Owen, Registered Commercial Interior Designer
- David Nuttall, Artist & Owner, Artimaps
Ex Officio City of Huntsville Representative: Dennis Madsen, City of Huntsville Manager of Urban and Long-Range Planning
Ex Officio Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville Representative: Chris Russell, 2019 Board Chair
Ex Officio Redstone Federal Credit Union Representative: Joe Guske, Vice President of Innovation
Ex Officio RCP Companies Representative: Lindsey Pattillo Keane, Marketing & Property Activation
Ex Officio Huntsville Public Art Committee Representative: Kim Ward, Arts Huntsville Board Member and Art Consultant
Ex Officio Arts Huntsville Representative: Allison Dillon-Jauken, Executive Director
Travelers II serves as a companion installation to Travelers, installed in Community Foundation Park in May of 2021. (Plans for Travelers III, also part of the RDG’s original design proposal and slated for the CityCentre Development, is indefinitely postponed due to COVID-19 delays and supply chain issues.)