Please Insert Public Art Here: The Washington Avenue Edition

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Houston has plenty of public art around the city. Some pieces, like Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk over at the Rothko Chapel, have become touchstones for the art community. Others, like Luis Jimenez's Vaquero in Moody Park, were controversial when first installed but eventually became just another part of the cultural landscape. We think there are lots of empty spaces that could do with a free-standing sculpture or installation. Our first suggestion is a grassy, though woefully underused lawn at the entrance to Memorial Park (Memorial Loop Drive at Westcott Street). We recommend something along the lines of Joan Miro's Personage and Birds, scaled down slightly to fit the space, of course. We think it would make a wonderful welcome to the park.

Our next suggestion for new public art is at the 4000 block of Washington Avenue. The entire block is empty now except for a small, two-story building that used to be home to the Guadalajara Bakery and Tacos cafe (we're still heartbroken over the cafe's closing - sniff, sniff). We suggest turning all of the now vacant space into an unofficial park, with green lawns and a series of several low, long metal pieces such as Houston native De Witt Godrey's untitled welded steel sculpture (see right).

The oddly shaped corner of Washington Avenue at Union Street has two distinct disadvantages. First, it's a sort of squared off triangle that isn't quite wide enough for a building. Second, dozens of power lines crisscross overhead. That means the space needs something relatively low to the ground. Something like The Great Adventure (Dolly's Ride) by Ann Armstrong (see right) that sits at the Houston Zoo would fit the bill (we would omit the little girl rider, but hey, that's just us). Dolly's Ride was donated to the zoo by the First Houston Doll Club in 1994.

The green space between the Dark Horse Tavern and the Mid-Century Modern Furniture store is relatively small. A single, square-ish piece that would fit between the two buildings would go well here. Our suggestion? Something that echoes Atropos, the Hannah H. Stewart sculpture that crowns the Miller Theatre hill in Hermann Park, would be nice.

Our last site on Washington Avenue, the patch that sits at the corner of Washington Avenue and Fowler Street, is the most troublesome. Surrounded on two sides by tall and seriously ugly condos - townhouses - whatever they call those blah boxy residences that scar the area - the corner needs something bold, bright and simple to counteract the high boredom-factor of its neighbors. We suggest something akin to Claes Thure Oldenberg's Geometric Mouse X, that currently sits at the Houston Library's downtown branch.

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