June 17, 2014

Unity Arch sculpture coming to entertainment district

The commissioned stainless steel sculpture is the first of several the city plans to install near AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Park at Arlington.

Visitors won’t need a ticket to enjoy the entertainment district’s newest planned attraction.

The Arlington Parks and Recreation Department hopes to unveil the first of 15 sculptures next spring at a new sculpture trail that will be between AT&T Stadium and Globe Life Park at Arlington.

Late last month, the City Council approved a $235,000 contract with Morrel Studios of New York to create the Unity Arch, a stainless steel sculpture resembling a Möbius strip or infinity symbol. Within next several years, Arlington plans to install other pieces of commissioned public art along the trails running through Richard Greene and Robert Cluck linear parks near Johnson Creek.

Artist Owen Morrel’s Unity Arch was selected last year out of 21 proposals as the best representation of the community spirit supporting Arlington’s growing entertainment district, which is home to the Texas Rangers, the Dallas Cowboys and the Six Flags Over Texas and Hurricane Harbor theme parks.

“If it wasn’t for the community spirit and the passion to get the stadiums built in Arlington, none of this would be possible,” assistant parks director Gary Packan said. “It was fitting this was the first piece of art. The Unity Arch represents the ongoing spirit and community pride.”

Morrel, 64, said he came up with the design by wrapping a piece of chicken wire around a football. The Unity Arch, when complete, will have a much larger presence at nearly 14 feet tall and 25 feet wide.

“When you make a piece for a gallery or museum, it goes into a private collection and very few people see it,” said Morrel, a New York artist who was also recently commissioned to create a sculpture for Texas Tech University in Lubbock. “I enjoyed the challenge of trying to make art for a wider audience. This is a piece that has to live, it has to exist in real space in real time and be perused and interacted with by millions of people who are coming to see sports.”

Community spirit

The public art, which is expected to memorialize significant events and people in the entertainment district, would not only be an added amenity for park users but would also serve as an additional arts and culture destination for the millions of visitors who come to Arlington.

“The Unity Arch is reflective of how Arlington is aligning to create growth and opportunity by uniting through our diversity, education, aspirations and spirit, and it reflects the ‘can-do’ spirit of our city,” said Ronnie Price, president of Experience Arlington.

“We support this effort in the community, as it not only pushes Arlington in the direction of creating more authentic and ongoing local engagement, but also opportunity for our tourists to engage in cultural arts around Arlington,” he said.

Morrel said it is up to individuals to interpret what the sculpture means, whether they are enjoying it from an art history perspective or as a shady place to stop and rest.

“What this piece will do is bring people together,” he said. “It challenges people to come to the object with their own history and decide what they see. I think it will be something that people can identify with and something people can identify Arlington with.”

A blank canvas

The Unity Arch will be created at a foundry in California and delivered to Arlington by truck. The city has not finalized where it will be installed but said it will be in a prominent location in Richard Greene Linear Park, Packan said.

A committee that includes representatives from the Parks and Recreation Department, the Cowboys, the Rangers, the University of Texas at Arlington and the Convention & Visitors Bureau is tasked with selecting public art for the sculpture trail.

The pieces will be paid for through hotel occupancy taxes collected by the city. Currently, about $150,000 a year is being set aside for the project.

“This linear park is a blank canvas where they can do a lot of visionary things. This will kick open the door and other things will happen,” Morrel said.

Arlington also hopes to bring in additional sculptures on a rotating basis through a public art lease, Packan said. The city could earn a commission if any of those sculptures sells while on display, which could be used toward buying other permanent artworks, he said.

“Art is an important piece of any community,” Packan said. “If we can continue to work to expand that within our park system to celebrate people and events that have happened in Arlington through sculptures, it’s an exciting opportunity for our parks to become more engaging for our residents.”

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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