When the South Gessner Division Police Station first opened its doors in 2011, it made news for coming in under budget, for being LEED™ certified, and for 33 cast bronze phrases and one stained glass and steel sculpture by Houston artist Tara Conley. Commissioned by the Houston Arts Alliance in partnership with the City of Houston, a new piece has just been added to the permanent installation – an 18-foot stainless steel outdoor sculpture entitled We Are in the Business of Changing the World, SS.
The original stained glass piece from 2011 (We Are in the Business of Changing the World, SG) shows 5 non-human figures made of asymmetrical hexagons stacked in varying heights and, although constructed of immovable steel, appearing to move and react to each other. The base hexes have thicker borders and are filled with dark reds, purples and greens. As the eye travels upward, the higher hex frames have thinner borders and feature lighter shades of blue and green.
The new piece, which was celebrated with civic leaders and community members on May 5, rests atop a concrete slab in front of the police station. From the side one can see the same honeycombed figures, though the effect is quite different and airy as they reach for the sky. The 1” pipes at the bottom of the sculpture are solid while the pipes at the top become narrow and and hollow. The outdoor piece is designed to illustrate the relationship between the police officers and the community, while the interior stained glass work represents the diversity found in District 17.
The 33 cast bronze phrases from 2011 are located along the walls inside the police station, in a secure area, and not available to the public without prior coordination with the captain’s staff. They can be viewed online on the artist’s website at taraconleyart.com/city-of-houston. For years she collected phrases heard aloud and, for the station’s hallways, community room and roll call room, selected works that provided insight to police work. They range from the familiar “You have the right to remain silent,” to the foreboding “Good luck with the police,” to the encouraging “You just have to go by instinct and you have to be brave.”
Conley often works with fiber, steel, bronze and fiberglass, and was chosen for this commission through a peer panel review process. Funding for the $120,000 project came from the city’s Percent for Art program. Through this legislation, 1.75 percent of the construction budget for city buildings may be set aside to commission and maintain public art.
The Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) receives 55 percent of its funding from the Hotel Occupancy Tax, 30 percent from the City of Houston’s Percent for Art Program and the remaining 15 percent comes from private fundraising.
We Are in the Business of Changing the World, SS is a permanent installation at Houston Police Department, South Gessner Division, 8605 Westplace. For information about HAA, visit houstonartsalliance.com.