Arts and Entertainment

Metal tree sculpture accepted by Arlington

Debbi Rhodes’ ‘Rooted Embrace’ metal tree sculpture could be planted by the Centennial Trail as early as this summer. - Courtesy photo.
Debbi Rhodes’ ‘Rooted Embrace’ metal tree sculpture could be planted by the Centennial Trail as early as this summer.
— image credit: Courtesy photo.

ARLINGTON — A new monument of metal twisted into an organic form will mark the culmination of more than two years of discussions and fundraising.

On Tuesday, Feb. 18, the Arlington City Council officially accepted the Arlington Arts Council’s gift of a metal tree sculpture by artist Debbi Rhodes, which will be placed at the Centennial Trail, between Third and Fourth streets, when it’s complete.

Rhodes explained that the tree will be constructed of Cor-Ten steel, and will include both stainless steel and powder-coated orange “leaves.”

“The roots are actually going to be a sort of mirror image of the branches on the final product,” Rhodes said. “I changed the scope of the piece to give it a more cohesive statement, so I hope the viewer will feel the ‘Rooted Embrace’ that the title implies.”

Both Arlington Arts Council President Sarah Arney and Arts Council member Marilyn Oertle, also a member of the Arlington City Council, recalled Rhodes’s presentation to the Arts Council early in 2012, during which she brought a miniature model of her tree sculpture.

“Everyone was very enamored of the tree,” Oertle said. “The discussion led to entering it into the ‘People’s Choice’ selection at our annual art auction. It won first place two years running.”

“Arts Council members persistently brought it up as a future project, but at the time, we were committed to finishing the Sound Garden and the city entryway signs,” Arney said. “And as a result of our ‘Fall into Art’ auction, and our concerts at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center, we now have the money — $12,000, not including installation — to commission the full-sized 12-foot-by-14-foot sculpture.”

“That location on Centennial Trail cries out for something spectacular,” said Oertle, who added that the project was approved not only by the Arlington Arts Council, but also the Public Art Commission and the Parks, Arts and Recreation Committee. “Arlington is recognized as a ‘Tree City USA,’ so it seemed perfect.”

Rhodes admitted that she hadn’t even considered that angle when she first proposed the sculpture.

“Trees are very iconic, and Washington is known for its evergreens rather than its deciduous trees, so I thought it was a nice statement,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes expects the labor to create the tree will take her about 50 hours.

“I’ll be laser-cutting a lot of the parts, but I’ll have to join all four pieces on the site, welding them together at the top,” Rhodes said. “I’ll still see it as more of a concept until it’s completed.”

“I love the tree and have promoted its acceptance from the beginning,” said Oertle, who also singled out Arlington Arts Council Treasurer Jean Olson for her role in making this project possible. “Once I get behind a project, I do my best to make it happen.”

Arney hopes to see the tree bolted down to its concrete pad by this summer, perhaps even in time for Arbor Day.

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