ALEXANDRIA, VA –The new public art installation hitting Alexandria’s Waterfront park frames Alexandria’s African American history through the lens of the city’s industrial and merchant history from the 17th to 20th centuries. Once a prosperous port city that was home to one of the largest domestic slave trading firms in the country, Alexandria was a major center for shipping and manufacturing with an economy inextricably tied to the work of enslaved and free African Americans.
Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies by Olalekan Jeyifous is the second in the Site See: New Views in Old Town annual public art series, which will be on display from March to November 2020.
Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies seeks to stitch Alexandria’s story together, featuring symbols that represent Alexandria’s merchant and manufacturing history, including factories, tobacco warehouses, breweries and railways. The ground mural will incorporate African American quilting and textile traditions, which are historically tied to storytelling and oral tradition. When viewed as a whole, the pattern will become an abstract grid or map, with the manufacturing icons appearing throughout. From this colorful and rich surface, four large figures will face the water. Ornate metal profiles will be wrapped in sculptural seating platforms that are illuminated in low light.
The Artist Explains
“I consider art in the public realm to be a humble and noble endeavor,” said Jeyifous. “It provides an opportunity to bring art to non-traditional places. We can explore our histories, acknowledge mythologies of resilience and resistance, and even ponder the futures of cities and public spaces. My hope is that the artwork resonates in ways that inspire and elicit engagement and dialogue.”
Alexandria Expands Art Landscape
Alexandria is boosting its reputation as an arts destination with world-class artwork that is unlike anything that can be experienced in the region. The Site See series highlights Waterfront Park as a civic space, fostering community engagement and interactions with the temporary installations. The artwork is informed by the historic waterfront and neighboring community. The compelling, unique art attracts repeat visits from the metropolitan area and beyond. The inaugural installation, Mirror Mirror by SOFTlab, drew thousands of people to Alexandria in 2019.
“Alexandria prides itself on being a distinct and vibrant community with flourishing arts and culture,” said City Manager Mark Jinks. “The Site See public art series is a key asset that showcases our waterfront, open spaces and gathering places. We look forward to this next chapter with Olalekan’s installation.”