Huntsville, AL – Arts Huntsville, Sealy Property Development, LLC, and the City of Huntsville announced the commission of a public art installation that will serve as a gateway to Downtown Huntsville. The pieces, Light Tree and Light Arch, will be prominently featured in the plaza of The Avenue, a mixed-use development along Jefferson Street North and at the southwest corner of Jefferson and Meridian Streets.
Sealy Property Development, LLC approached Arts Huntsville about partnering on a public art commission after participating in open forums as part of the City’s public art master planning process facilitated by Arts Huntsville. Arts Huntsville, Sealy Property Development, LLC, and the City of Huntsville then combined forces on this public-private partnership. A request for artist qualifications for The Avenue commission was issued in December of 2014. After receiving and reviewing more than 30 artist qualifications and subsequent proposals, a panel of community members selected sculpture artist Christopher Fennell’s rendering of a “light tree” as the winning proposal in June of 2015.
Chris was tasked with creating a sculpture that will serve as a welcoming gateway to downtown Huntsville with a presence both day and night. Chris is an award-winning artist whose work has been commissioned by public art programs across the United States. His creative inspiration comes from a dual background in mechanical engineering and art. Many of Chris’ pieces represent his vision as an artist as well as his sense of humor, and encourage people to participate and place themselves inside or around the artwork. The placement of each of his sculptures is carefully selected for the maximum effect of discovery and scale.
“Chris presented incredible energy and enthusiasm in his vision for these pieces. It is exciting to be working with an artist that is so accomplished and nationally known, yet is from Alabama and has strong ties to Huntsville,” said developer Charlie Sealy. “Works created by Chris have been installed in dynamic and progressive cities around the country, but you can tell that this Huntsville commission is special to him.”
Chris will also utilize train rails found on The Avenue site for the sculpture. “We are excited that the repurposing of the train rails will incorporate history from the site into the sculpture, giving it further meaning by merging the past with the present and future,” added developer Sasha Sealy.
Funding for the project comes from the City, Sealy Property Development, LLC and a 2012 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to Arts Huntsville that provided funding for both the development of the City’s Public Art Master Plan and seed money for this initial public art pilot project. The artist was chosen by a twelve person selection committee that combined local arts officials, members of the downtown community and the project partners.
“Public art enlivens our community and creates a distinct cultural landscape for our neighborhoods, our city and our region. We are so grateful to the Sealys and the City of Huntsville for partnering with us on this project that will serve as a bold new gateway piece for downtown and a signature piece of public art for Huntsville,” said Allison Dillon-Jauken, Arts Huntsville executive director.
Chris’s Light Tree is as diverse as the community that will experience it, symbolizing an enlightened city – a place where diverse groups of people live and work together and exchange ideas. Light Arch represents different groups coming together to learn from one another, with the lights intertwining around the center of the arch. These site-specific pieces feature street lights you can find throughout Huntsville’s neighborhoods, with the Light Arch mirroring the Roman arch over St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church across Jefferson Street.
“A robust public art program is a key element of quality of life. It helps create the unique and vibrant places where people want to live, and where businesses want to invest,” said Dennis Madsen, director of long-range planning for the City of Huntsville. “I’m tremendously excited about the Public Art Master Plan, and this installation in particular. I can’t say enough good things about Arts Huntsville and the Sealys, and their willingness to be a part of what I believe will be a precedent-setting project for Huntsville.”
The Avenue development will combine 197 loft apartments with 21,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, creating a walkable, modern living environment. The development, located at 201 Jefferson Street, is scheduled to open in late summer 2016. Installation of the sculpture is planned for September 2016.