6th Avenue Bridge Concept
In May 2012, Alice Aycock was announced as the finalist for the 6th Avenue Bridge public art project in Des Moines, Iowa. Aycock’s sculptures are found in major U.S. collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Museum, as well as numerous other cultural institutions throughout Europe.
City of Des Moines officials were part of the local, nine member jury who reviewed and evaluated applications from 123 local, national and international artists.
“The selection committee was delighted with the number of exceptional artists submitting proposals for this important project,” said Paul Mankins, Greater Des Moines Public Art Foundation Board President. “We’re trilled to select the design concept of Alice Aycock for this site. Aycock has contributed major public art projects all across the U.S.”
The project will focus on the installation of a dynamic, soaring 83’ x 61’ public art sculpture by the acclaimed artist Alice Aycock atop the 6th Avenue Bridge. An average of 17,000 vehicles move through the corridor daily, and the bridge and its adjacent neighborhood of River Bend mark the northern entry to the city’s urban core. It thus provides an ideal opportunity to serve as a model for place-based urban design and public art integration.
The project seeks to support the ongoing revitalization of the city’s most distressed neighborhoods – neighborhoods which benefit from rich diversity in race, culture and income, yet still struggle to attract small-scale businesses to serve their residents. The project partners envision a future which celebrates and supports this diversity, and they look to the integration of public art in the urban fabric as method of achieving this goal.
“Our partnership with the 6th Avenue Corridor, Inc. and the City of Des Moines champions the community’s desire for this bridge to become an icon and aesthetically indicate the positive developments along 6th Avenue,” said Jessica Rowe, director of the Public Art Foundation. “I am most excited that this public art project nurtures the city’s wider strategies for economic, social, and cultural development.”
Of note are Aycock’s design references to the historic Riverview Amusement Park, a treasured local landmark that once operated at a site north of the 6th Avenue bridge and closed in 1977. The design’s fanciful twists and turns will wrap over the bridge like the roller coasters from childhood memory. The artwork’s installation will conveniently coincide with efforts by the City of Des Moines Parks and Recreation Department to redevelop the vacant amusement park property.
The main goals are to be a model of creative place-based planning and urban design which integrates art, culture and infrastructure, and to transform 6th Avenue Bridge with a work of public art that possess a gravitas and landmark quality equivalent to that of our great civic buildings and spaces.
The overall vision is to enrich our community by advancing the best of public art. The project is a model of the public art process and depends upon a creative and collaborative approach to planning.
- The project will help to nurture the city’s wider strategies for economic, social and cultural development. This district was chosen as one of Iowa’s three initial “Urban Neighborhood Districts” because of critical development and revitalization needs.
- Integrating public art into the 6th Avenue Bridge was proposed by the Highland Park and Oak Park neighborhoods, and 6AC focus groups. The project supports a shared vision to revitalize 6th Avenue through the River Bend and Cheatom Park neighborhoods and embraces the multicultural and diverse character of this residential and commercial neighborhood.
- Collaboration and partnership champions the desire for this bridge to become an icon to signify the energy of the city and neighborhood. This innovative project nurtures the city’s wider strategies for economic, social, and cultural development by moving closer to the community’s need and City’s goals of attracting visitors from the metro region and beyond.
The project will encourage increased pedestrian use of adjacent sidewalks and connected multi-modal trails along the river, increased river recreation, and perhaps most importantly, increased visibility of the 6AC and its neighborhoods as areas ripe for commercial and residential investment and revitalization.
Also, the installation of such a visually-striking public art piece by a nationally acclaimed artist will bring public art into the daily lives of area residents—residents who comprise the most diverse neighborhood in the state of Iowa (recent immigrants to the United States, low-income families, and large youth population). The project will be within prominent view and walking distance of North High School, one of the largest high schools in the state of Iowa.
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The sculptural assemblage is composed of diverse curvilinear aluminum shapes, which arc over the roadway and attach to the bridge. The elements are fragments of bridge components and are also reminiscent of amusement park rides such as Ferris Wheels and roller coasters (super duper loopers) all of which have a truss system of diagonal bracing. The sculptural construction is centered on the Sixth Avenue Bridge. As such it acts as a portal or gateway to the city of Des Moines and in the reverse direction as an entrance to the historic neighborhood on the other side of the river. The component parts are attached to the existing bridge structure. The arcs of the structure can be seen from a distance so that the bridge itself provides a goal, a point of arrival and departure for the traveler and operates as a landmark for the residents. The sculpture is celebratory in nature and could be lit as illustrated in the powerpoint image or the site of 4th of July fireworks. The work is intended to emphasize the historical significance of the site as well as to operate as a memory trace of the past activities there. This new metaphorical construction operates as a sign signifying the activity and energy that was generated historically and also refers to the energy and excitement that still exists. [9 May 2012] Alice Aycock