What’s made of cast iron, stands about nine feet tall and glows in the dark? Hint: It has claw feet.
It’s a riddle many are likely to ponder as they pass a sculpture by artist Alonzo Davis that will be installed in about a month outside Vintage House Parts & Radiators on Rhode Island Avenue in North Brentwood.
And Davis said he’s hoping the sculpture will pique people’s interest. He wants people to stop and take a closer look at the two claw-foot bathtubs standing on top of two vintage radiators, with color-changing LED lights glowing softly from inside.
“How can this be visible from the street, how can it say ‘vintage salvage’ as well as how can it say ‘sculpture?’” Davis, 72, of Hyattsville said he asked himself as he worked on the design. The artist, who is now working on the piece with the help of an assistant, said he hopes the sculpture will draw attention to the business that salvages and sells vintage tubs, sinks, radiators, doors and other fixtures from old homes.
The sculpture is part of the Biz-Art Match-Up program, a Hyattsville Development Corp. initiative to highlight businesses in the Gateway Arts District while engaging the community through public art, said Justin Fair, the organization’s economic development coordinator. The initiative, which pairs 10 artists with 10 businesses in North Brentwood, Hyattsville and Riverdale Park to work on projects ranging from sculpture to interior design to photography, is funded by local and nationwide art grants and matching funds from the businesses.
“It’s really allowed the business owner to think outside the box,” Fair said. “Here’s some money, here’s an artist; what can you guys do together?”
All of the projects are expected to be complete by Aug. 15.
Other partnerships include interior designers working on a project at Authentic Bartending School of Maryland in Hyattsville; a collage artist working on an installation at Spice 6, a restaurant in Hyattsville; and a photographer working on a photo shoot at The Ivy Lounge Salon in Riverdale Park. Fair said total funding for the project was $11,000.
After the businesses and the artists were selected separately, Fair said the businesses were allowed to select the artists with whom they were interested in working.
“This project is our first small step in what we hope will become an example of how the arts can become a better economic tool,” Fair said.
Andrew Gordon, a longtime employee of Vintage House Parts & Radiators, said he and store owner Saul Navidad liked Davis’ work and felt the artist’s ideas about the project were similar to their own.
“We liked his passion for this material,” said Gordon, referring to the radiators, claw-foot tubs, wooden doors, chandeliers, doorknobs and many other 19th-century fixtures the business salvages from old homes, repairs and resells. “It’s not just a sculpture of random pieces, it’s a sculpture of pieces we have out here for sale.”
Gordon said the business, one of about four stores in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore area that focus on “repurposing architectural antiques,” has found a niche clientele among homeowners who are looking for well-made antique and vintage pieces for their homes.
“Some people see trash,” Gordon said. “Other people see history and art and architecture.”