A Giant Stirs
The District loses “The Awakening.”
EVEN IN a city renowned for its monuments, “ The Awakening” holds its own. The dramatic sculpture of a giant emerging little by little from the earth, mouth open wide, rules Hains Point, beloved by both resident and tourist. News that Washington will soon lose this signature fixture is a little disconcerting.
The artwork has been sold for $ 750,000 to developer Milt Peterson for use at his National Harbor project in Prince George’s County. Everyone involved in the sale tried to put the best face on it. The Californiabased Sculpture Foundation, which owns the work, put out a news release headlined “ Sculptural Giant To Stay in DC.” The National Park Service stressed that it’s been a good caretaker for the 27 years it let the work reside on public land. Mr. Peterson said that even if the move creates a stir, it will be good for his project and Prince George’s County.
It seems that park service rules forbid either acquisition or donation of an art piece for permanent placement on public lands. Those rules make sense in the abstract, but the logic is lost when applied to the unique circumstances represented by “ The Awakening.” Okay, maybe it’s more kitsch than art. Think, though, of the countless children who have clamored and climbed on it. Of the presidents who have jogged by its vista. Of the memorable pictures taken.
Creator J. Seward Johnson Jr. said it best back in 1990 when there was talk of relocating the sculpture. “ Once a large piece of sculpture or something has been in place and has been accepted by the public, there’s a certain wrenching when you take that away. It’s like taking the nose off of someone’s face.”