DeWitt Godfrey to create display for South Circle Park

DeWitt Godfrey to create display for South Circle Park
The official renderings of the new South Circle Park. (Rendering/City of Alexandria)

By Dylan Jaffe |

Sculptor DeWitt Godfrey has been chosen as the artist for a public art piece at South Circle Park, a new park coming to Alexandria at the corner of Eisenhower Avenue and Holland Lane.

Godfrey will work alongside landscape architects and project developers to create a sculpture that fosters a sense of community within the park. The city’s Office of the Arts commissioned a public art piece for the site with funds from previous developer contributions, as the park is city-owned.

Diane Ruggiero, the deputy director of recreation, parks and cultural activities for the city, said the process for choosing the installment and artist is meticulous. Ruggiero said once an installation project is approved by the Arts Commission and City Council, a Public Art Project Task Force is created to discuss project goals, timelines and a budget. Artists, before they are reviewed by the task force, are recruited in a variety of ways.

Often, the city either utilizes a competition, a pre-qualified artist list, a curatorial process – where the artists’ previous works are on display to be judged – or invites specific artists to be considered for the piece based on if their artwork aligns with the aesthetic of the installation. The task force selects a finalist by reviewing artist’s qualifications based on criteria outlined in the approved plan.

If multiple finalists are selected, each candidate must go through interviews or are paid a stipend to develop a concept proposal and present it to the project task force. The task force then sends their selection to the Arts Commission and reviews the artist’s idea. If approved, it will be signed off as the final design and the artist is then responsible for creating the piece to meet the project deadline. Then, finally, the arts office, the artist and relevant city departments will arrange for installation of the piece onsite.

“The whole point of public art is that it’s for the public, right?” Ruggiero said. “It’s in these public spaces. In order for the community to feel connected to that space in that artwork, they need to have a role in determining how it gets there.”

Godfrey, a Hamilton, New York, native, inherited his interests in art and sculpting from his father, an architect, and was certain he wanted to make a career out of it at a young age. He earned his bachelors degree in art at Yale University and now teaches art classes at Colgate University – a liberal arts college in his hometown – where many of his students go on to attend architecture schools, according to Godfrey.

DeWitt Godfrey is an artist from Hamilton, New York, and has been commissioned to work on a public art display in Alexandria. (Photo/DeWitt Godfrey)

“There’s a human kind of interaction in architecture,” Godfrey said. “In art, you don’t always have that kind of physical and psychological relationship to the way you do with the physical environment. I think that’s something I’ve always been interested in and working at that scale.”

Godfrey predicts he will be able to complete and present his design by early 2024, but is unsure when the project will be completed.

According to the artist, he did not have that much experience in sculpting prior to taking a class during his time at Yale. He took a lot of inspiration from his professor and admired her way of teaching the class through simple prompts that enabled creativity to shine through.

“The one I remember most clearly was to change an object by wrapping it,” Godfrey said. “I think because I didn’t know anything about sculpture or about art. … I was able to kind of really embrace this and listen and respond to what was being asked of me. It was this very open territory that I found interesting from the very beginning and so that’s when I thought I wanted to try to be an artist.”

According to Ruggiero, Godfrey was chosen for the project due to his expertise in sculpting real life objects. The task force believed he was able to work with the complicated area and fit the desired aesthetic for this specific project. South Circle Park will be a four-story elevated urban project, including a plaza with stairs and elevators that lead up to a green space. The artwork will be viewed from multiple different angles at all times.

This project will be different from previous ones as the park has yet to be finished, so it is up in the air as to how the art installation will fit into this puzzle.

“The project that [Godfrey] is working on is a little bit different for us, because we are working side-by-side with a developer on this because while it’ll be a public park, it’s the developer who’s designing and building the park for the city,” Ruggiero said.

His inspirations derive from natural geometry and intricate objects such as seashells, seed pods and honeycombs. According to Godfrey, the project is still very early in the process and the team is unsure of what specifically will be designed. Nonetheless, Godfrey has worked alongside landscape architects to confirm where the piece will be installed at the park and what the size of it will be.

DeWitt Godfrey’s sculptures derive from natural geometry and
intricate objects. (Photo/DeWitt Godfrey)

“Part of the goal of the art is to create a marker or a signal. If you’re several blocks away, you can kind of maybe see the sculpture stick in the distance and it’ll draw you down there to explore what else is available,” Godfrey said.

“[The installment] will help create a sense of place, so that when people are saying, ‘Meet me on the corner,’ it’s kind of like, ‘Meet me at this artwork.’” Ruggiero said.

The city’s creative departments continue to work with Godfrey and other architects in order to deliver a piece that benefits the public and enhances the community. First steps of the project and design pitches will be released to the public in early 2024.