A Gi­ant Stirs

The Dis­trict loses “The Awak­en­ing.”

The Washington Post Sunday - - Letters To The Editor -

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.”

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