District expands public art with a President, and a Peaceful Path

East Aldine District COMMUNITY NEWS

Two very different art projects – a prominent, bold sculpture of the late President John F. Kennedy, and a tranquil walking space through a “rambling rose” labyrinth – will soon bring more people into the East Aldine community.

The five-ton bust of the 35th president, designed by renowned sculptor David Adickes, will be installed soon on JFK Boulevard, near Houston’s Intercontinental Airport, at the northern entrance of the East Aldine Management District.

The other project, a recently completed labyrinth on the grounds of the District’s Town Center, was built by a corps of spirited volunteers using left-over materials from the construction of the building.

The JFK statue will serve as a landmark and “welcome mat” to Houston and the district. The labyrinth, soon to be listed on a national register, has already served as a peaceful and spiritual marker for the community.

“Even though the two projects are very different, they are very much in the spirt of East Aldine,” said Carlos Silva, chairman of the East Aldine Management District and its East Aldine Arts Coalition. “They accomplish two things: to draw people into the community, and then to let everyone experience the sense of community that exists in East Aldine.”

Official have already broken ground for the base of the JFK statue created by the 95-year-old Adickes. The acclaimed sculptor is best known to Houstonians for his outdoor sculpture of a larger-than-life cello player in downtown Houston, busts of other presidents just east of downtown, and the massive Sam Houston monument on Interstate 45 near Huntsville.

The JFK bust, which is hollow on the inside, is composed of two pieces. The head and shoulders are separate and will be welded together and then covered in plaster, Silva explained.

The statue will be inscribed by the late president’s famous words during his 1962 speech at Rice University, where a crowd of 30,000 heard his stadium address announcing the U.S. space program’s mission to land a man on the moon.

“We choose to go to the moon (in this decade) and do other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard,” JFK said.

There will soon be a ceremony to celebrate the official installation of the statue, which Silva said he hopes to see lighted at night for people who drive by.

As chairman of the Arts Council, Silva strongly believes that distinctive arts projects and programs can serve as an economic boon to the community.

“As soon as I told (Adickes) the nature of the project, he was completely on board. That was very exciting for me,” Silva said. “But, in a way, I was putting the cart before the horse, because I hadn’t sought any permission” from the council and board.

Labyrinth completion

The labyrinth was inspired by Silva’s friend Jay Staley when they served on the Rothko Chapel Guild. Staley, a student of labyrinths around the world, helped design the Town Center project and led a winter solstice walk on through the pathway, which was lit by candelarias.

The project, designed in the same shape as a labyrinth at the Chartres Cathedral in France, was built by a corps of eager volunteers in two weekends. The crew included students from Rose P. Avalos P-Tech High School, who got curious about the project and then spent hours helping to install the pathway.

Many other volunteers, including staffers from BakerRipley and SMC Landscaping, also participated.

Labyrinths are designed to serve as spaces for thoughtful reflection or prayer. Near the new one, located between the district’s office headquarters and the BakerRipley Community Center, is a sign stressing the importance of peace.

“It’s the sign that (means) for there to be world peace, there must be peace in the nations, for there to be peace in the nations, there must be peace in the cities, for there to be peace in the cities, there must be peace among neighbors. And, for there to be peace among neighbors, there has to be peace in the home,” Silva said.

“The labyrinth, I hope, will allow visitors to connect a little more with that sentiment,” Silva said.

— By Anne Marie Kilday