It was here. Then it disappeared.
Alexander Calder’s giant red stabile, The Eagle, was a distinct feature of the downtown Fort Worth landscape at the corner of Fifth and Throckmorton streets, until one Sunday in 1999 when it took flight. For weeks, no one knew what had happened — or if they did, they weren’t talking. The 39-foot-tall sculpture reappeared in Philadelphia and a few years later found its way to Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park.
Over the past week, there have been a number of sitings of The Eagle, first on Race Street, then overlooking the Fort Worth skyline. It popped up on the lawn of the Fort Worth Community Arts Center, it moved to a parking lot overlooking I-30, and then on to Magnolia Avenue. It makes its final appearance Friday, for one day only, in Burnett Park.
This Eagle is the creation of HOMECOMING! Committee, a local artist collective that created an inflatable replica of Calder’s steel sculpture. The weeklong event, moving the Eagle from place to place, is the group’s intent to incite discussion about public art. “We see it as a piece of activism and education,” says Devon Nowlin, one of the committee members.
“It will not be available for parties,” she says vehemently. “If it goes anywhere after this, I hope it will be to Philadelphia and Seattle.”
While all members of HOMECOMING! Committee have their own art practices, they band together, 5 to 12 members at a time, for pop-up projects that usually have a life expectancy of less than 24 hours. Their first outing was “Launch Party” in 2011, a one-evening event where guests were asked to contribute materials to help build a spaceship that was constructed during the party.
“Hands on an Art Body” followed. An art gallery opening was staged and visitors could claim an artwork, and subsequently win it if they were the last person in contact with their chosen art piece.
These events were quite successful in grabbing the attention of the local art community. The committee members were invited by the Dallas Museum of Art to erect an installation as a companion piece to DallasSITES last summer. The result was a media presentation that blurred fact and fiction, and the viewer was left to question what was truth. “It created a dialogue inside the museum’s galleries,” Nowlin says.
Downtown Fort Worth Inc. invited the collective to consider a Fort Worth-based project. They were scoping out Burnett Park when someone noticed the Tower, the Eagle’s former home, and commented on the missing Calder. “The story still incited strong feeling. Whether you loved it or not, it meant something and people remember the conversations it generated when it left,” Nowlin says.
They proposed to make a replica, and the more research they did, the more feasible it seemed. There were many volunteers who pitched in to help with the fabrication. It took more than 150 yards of fabric and many hours of sewing.
HOMECOMING! members will be in Burnett Park on Friday to talk about their projects, past and present, and engage anyone who would like to talk about public art. They will also be talking about their projects March 4, as the featured guests for the Tuesday Evenings at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth lecture series.
Bradly Brown was the instigator of HOMECOMING! He came to Fort Worth in 2011 to attend TCU’s graduate program in art, and didn’t leave town when that was completed. He teaches at TCU and works with Nowlin at the Fort Worth Contemporary Arts gallery. The committee has completed five projects since its inception. Many of the projects were funded by crowd sourcing; some, such as the one at the DMA, were through grants. “Launch Party” generated enough money to fund two projects. “We’ve been lucky,” Brown says. “We generate enough excitement that we want to and can move on to the next project.”
When asked about the ephemeral nature of their projects, Brown says, “We are into the community-building aspects of the work. The art? It’s just a memory.”