Location: San Antonio, TX, United States
Completion date: 2018
Artwork budget: $297,325
Brad Oldham Sculpture
Brad Oldham Sculpture
“Running with the Moon” is an installation of a boy running along the river, pulling a crescent-shaped kite cantilevered over the water. The stainless steel moon is lifted by the residents’ good work, while the boy sculpture represents the future pushing forward. The two intertwined forces “propel” the crescent-shaped moon above the water. Attentive viewers will see that the 16-foot-diameter kite that is elevated 19 feet off the ground is comprised of butterflies. The 508 stainless steel butterflies contrast with the bronze material of the boy sculpture and allows them to dance in the natural and internal lights.
This public art installation is located within the city of San Antonio in a neighborhood called Brooks, well known as the location of the United States Army’s first flight school in 1917. In November 1963, Brooks was the backdrop for a speech by President John F. Kennedy’s (on his last full day alive) where he recognized Brooks’ men and women’s efforts to get a man on the moon. In 2002, the land was privately purchased and reimagined to be a home to many healthcare, high-tech, and energy companies, along with renowned medical hospitals and research institutes. The community transformed its old golf course into a linear park, augmenting the natural landscape and waters that connect Brooks with the San Antonio River Walk. The goal of the sculpture was to create a new visual identity for Brooks that celebrated its historical and natural significance while optimistically looking to the future. This effort was achieved through a unique interplay between the boy and kite. Furthermore, the crescent shape has been woven through neighborhood history and the butterflies have become increasingly important to this neighborhood that is in the heart of an annual butterfly migration path.
We started with neighborhood research, interviews, and on-site exploration. The story, scale, and imagery needed to rally and reflect pride in this community and incorporate the physicality of the site. Our concept was refined with a 1” to 12” scaled model. We pinned laser-cut paper butterflies onto a carved foam moon to strike a balance between porosity and coverage. We made four butterfly designs, each scaled in three sizes, for a total of 508 butterflies on the moon. We then created a four-foot section of the moon at full scale using lightweight metal to verify calculations and fabrication techniques. Engineering determined the footprint and the size/location of the base embed on the ground for the moon to connect to land. Our shop drawings further detailed the fabrication and installation plans. Stainless steel plates and round rods were used for the internal framework. The moon structure was bolted together with all butterflies hand welded into place. One butterfly unscrews to reveal an access door for internal maintenance. After assembly on the ground, we craned the moon and pole into place at a perfect 60-degree angle. After the pole was securely inside the embed, the pole was welded into place.
The adage that “your strengths and weakness come from the same well” is one that has reoccurred throughout Brooks’ history. Over the course of many ups and downs, the community collectively faced difficult decisions to overcome obstacles and emerged stronger than ever. This resolute spirit is honored in the sculpture in the moon, which has an internal light system to create a warm glow to fill the spaces, or “cracks,” of the overlapping butterflies at night. There are many layers in creating this site-specific sculpture to recognize the people, work, and natural beauty of this neighborhood.