BY GRETCHEN BRODTMAN — After winning a grant for a jointly-funded public art project by the Riverdale Public Art Initiative and the Prince George’s County Environmental Public Art Project, local artist Joanna Blake will have her sculpture “Great Blue Herons,” installed at the intersection of East-West Highway and Baltimore Avenue this summer.
“The preliminary concept showcases three herons in flight, with each bird’s outstretched wings touching at their tips,” a press release said, “akin to the international symbol for recycling, as a rotating weathervane atop a tall base at the south lawn.”
“One reason they picked this work is because the Anacostia [River] is so nearby,” Hyattsville Community Development Corporation (CDC) Economic Development Coordinator Justin Fair said. According to the Hyattsville CDC, the heron can be seen in its natural habitat on the Northwest Branch of the Anacostia River, less than a half mile east.
Fair said the Town of Riverdale Park was looking for a way to promote the Route 1 corridor and the arts.
The artwork will be displayed on the property of J.D. Williams, a longtime arts supporter and the former chair of the Prince George’s County Arts and Humanities Council. Williams built the professional building on the northeast corner of Baltimore Avenue and East-West Highway in 1984. The property is already home to a sculpture known as “Starry Night,” which he purchased 15 years ago at a Prince George’s County auction. The five-foot high sculpture is painted to resemble an Eastern Bluebird.
“If we can place this piece of art in this corner of Riverdale, perhaps we can get some people to slow down, calm down and be less stressed while in traffic,” Williams said.
The intersection sees approximately 61,000 visitors and commuters daily, according to the Hyattsville CDC.
It’s an “intersection of the all the different cultures who embody Riverdale Park,” said Fair.
Nine proposals from six artists were submitted for the grant last September. The two runners- up in the competition were Alan Binstock, longtime resident of Mount Rainier, and George Sabra, who has a studio in Hyattsville.
Blake’s artwork has been installed elsewhere in the area. In 2012, she was awarded a grant for the installation of the “Undaunted in Battle” War of 1812 commemorative sculpture at the intersection of Baltimore Avenue and Bladensburg Road in Bladensburg.
Before the installation, community members will have a chance to attend input sessions where Blake will share her process.