Client: City of Oklahoma City
Location: Oklahoma City, OK, United States
Completion date: 2021
Artwork budget: $30,000
“Movement” is a functional art installation, a gate, that aims to increase awareness about an impressive yet underappreciated Oklahoma City Civil Rights leader, James E. Stewart. The site is a new public golf clubhouse in east Oklahoma City, a historically black community. Appropriately, the new city-owned facility is named for Stewart, who also served on Oklahoma City’s Golf Commission. The project is substantially funded by a 1% for art program administered by the City of Oklahoma City Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs.
The concept for “Movement” is to illustrate that leaders and supporters have a symbiotic relationship: Both are critically important for a movement to happen. The use of color in the work demonstrates that Stewart built such relationships with multiple communities – certainly as a Civil Rights leader and president of Oklahoma Chapter of NAACP; but also as a Branch Manager at Oklahoma Natural Gas [utility]; and as a member of the City of Oklahoma City Golf Commission.
The work operates in a unique way that models Stewart addressing groups of people when the gate is open; and changes to a representation of him leading the groups when the gate is closed.
To properly answer the call to artists, the work had to be functionally integrated into a new Clubhouse project. It has a crucial job - to control access to the golf course, and secure golf carts after hours. Another integrative feature of the work is that the colors that are harmonious with the architects’ palette of materials. Even the process for realizing the work was integrative - the general contractor, architects and engineers were happy to make tweaks to accommodate the atypical sliding gate. A final way that the project was integrative is how it took its position in the community seriously - an apprentice from the community was hired to help develop the project and to write the first ever Wikipedia entry for Mr. Stewart.
The apprentice led our initial meeting with the structural engineer. The same digital model used in our presentation to the art selection committee was imported into the engineer’s software. The confidence we needed for the structural design came from this analysis, cardboard model experiments and our fabrication consultant's advice. The steel plate cut-outs and a system of connecting tabs make the sliding gate panel a self-supporting structure - we all liked the poetics of “putting the people to work.”
To accomplish a work of this scale, I worked every day at the fabrication consultant's shop where I had plenty of his expert help, access to his labor force, and a network of service providers and tools. A CNC cutter was one of the key tools for this project, leveraging the digital model one last time to output cut paths.
Since I am an architect, the project apprentice, an architecture student, received credit towards his architectural licensing requirements. As an educator at the University of Oklahoma College of Architecture, I was in charge of managing a student internship program, and this background enabled me to create a quality experience for the apprentice.