The Shapes of Things That Are
A city that believes in the arts, Wilmington boasts a stunning collection of public sculptures. Here’s a tour.
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Consider for a moment the importance of a city’s collective pride. Without pride a city is just a shell. It may contain the most awe-inspiring architecture, the most widely respected cuisine or the most enviable shopping districts on the planet. But without pride, it’s all just an empty promise; a body without soul; an unrequited love. In short, a city’s pride is everything.
It’s probably safe to assume Wilmington sculptor Rick Rothrock understands this, as he is the creator of a monument designed to honor one of the city’s most treasured inspirations, world-renowned jazz musician Clifford Brown. Rothrock’s “Twin Obelisks for Brownie” stand with 14-feet of pride inside the Clifford Brown Garden at 16th and Clifford Brown Walk. The sculpture was officially dedicated at the 2008 DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival as a sign of the city’s perpetual respect and admiration for one of jazz’s most celebrated figures. This year the city revealed a new addition to the presentation.
In June, officials unveiled phase II of the public sculpture, a series of meditation benches that encircle the obelisk and bear the names of Brown’s colleagues, family members and mentors.
“It’s such a nice monument to Clifford Brown, who is probably the most world-renowned musical artist from the city of Wilmington,” says Mayor James Baker. “And this was important because I think public art should recognize the citizens who are great in your community in one way or the other.”
“Brown was a giant in the jazz world, so these benches are another way to contemplate the life and work of one of Wilmington’s most inspirational,” says Rich Neumann, assistant communications director for the mayor and a local history enthusiast. “The mayor wanted a piece that would pay tribute to Brown, and this is certainly it.”
Though the Clifford Brown monument is the most recent addition to Wilmington’s vibrant public art landscape, it is by no means the only sculpture. Wilmington is as rich with sculpture as it is with history and character. Whether you’re an avant-garde post-Modernist or diehard classicist, the city of has gads of variety to offer. And in ways both large and small, every one of the works that follows is a testament to the tangible pride contained in this vibrant city.
Perhaps no other sculpture in Wilmington is as unusual (or inspires as much heady discussion) as Kenneth Davis’ three marble spheres, called Kinetic Sculptures. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but the work—at Hercules Plaza on 13th Street—is also a marvel of modern engineering. In a square pool of water stand three concrete blocks of various heights. Balanced atop each is an enormous marble sphere, with the largest, three feet in diameter, weighing in at 3 tons. Water flows continually from the base of the fountain, and each of the spheres spins on the motion of the impossibly thin layer of water. For those of you doing the math at home, that’s three tons of marble lifted and spun by a layer of water less than a 16th of an inch thick. Eyes, commence popping.
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