Client: Arlington Public Art
Location: Arlington, VA, United States
Completion date: 2022
Artwork budget: $198,000
Public Art Administrator
Public Art Project Manager
LSG Landscape Architecture
Public Art Fabricator
Joe Riche, Abby Bennet, and team
Andrin the Carpenter
Francis Krahe & Associates
Wheelhouse explores the industrial history of the Jennie Dean Park site through the lens of the great American pastime—baseball. Inspired by the mill that stood in this location in the early 1700’s and the park’s rich recreational history, the artwork references the structural anatomy of the region’s historical mills, while playing on classic baseball terminology. Starting in the early 20th century, the park became a major hub for Black baseball clubs in the region, where game days were lively social epicenters for the community.
Wheelhouse, which refers to the location of the strike zone that the batter considers ideal, nods to the mill’s cyclical function and is reflected in the installation’s 24 house-shaped slices extending up from the ground. The resulting structure is a permeable pavilion that recalls a dugout as well as the radiating spokes of a churning wheel. On the interior, mirrored stainless steel panels shimmer with the reflections of park activity and passersby, while a 20-foot bench crafted from reclaimed cypress offers visitors a comfortable respite. The radial repetition of the design offers both a thoroughfare and a gathering space, activated by the energetic uses, industrial roots, and sporting history that have shaped Jennie Dean Park.
Through material and form, the renovation of the park and integration of public art celebrate the industrial past of the surrounding area, the recreational heritage of Arlington County Parks and Recreation, and the natural qualities of the adjacent river system. The design and materials are simple and functional, using steel, wood and concrete.
Qualification submittals were reviewed by an Art Advisory Panel comprised of representatives from the Arlington Public Art Committee, community stakeholders and Arlington County Government stakeholders. The Art Advisory Panel recommended one artist to the Public Art Committee who was then contracted by Arlington County to develop a concept and then implement their design.
Building upon its history and the community’s love of sports and arts, the Jennie Dean Park has been transformed into an exciting place designed to celebrate the area’s past and cultural heritage, while increasing access to recreation and nature. “Jennie Dean Park has reflected Arlington County since its inception,” said Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol. “When the County was segregated, this was the park for Black Arlingtonians. And it reflected their love of community, sports, and arts. These new renovations build upon that history and have honored and enhanced it.” Jennie Dean Park has been expanded by 2.25 acres, which allowed for a larger and more modern playground. The picnic shelter was renovated so it’s fully accessible along Four Mile Run, and the restrooms were updated to be all-gender. The diamond fields and athletic courts were relocated to increase playability, with more-efficient LED lights. There is also a new history walk with a timeline of significant dates and events that happened at Jennie Dean Park.