Art in Public Places, The Urban Design Group, & Jennifer Chenowith developed an Obelisco Wayfinding public art concept for East 7th Street in Austin, Teaxas. For the design they wanted artists to create work to cover the structures with the following requirements:
“Respect the historic, ethnic and cultural character of the neighborhoods in central east Austin… allowing the individual voices of the artists to tell the stories of the neighborhood.”
The Obeliscos designed by Fisterra Studio and fd2s inc. are 10 feet tall lighted structures. Artists selected designed work to cover all four sides using the same four color palate for one of the eight locations.
At the time Ben Appl was a long time East Austin resident and a teacher for the City of Austin’s Totally Cool/Totally Art program. One of the favorite projects he created for his classes to do was a casted hand sculpture. The classes would come alive with energy and excitement when the kids saw an exact replica of their hand come out of the mold.
Ben saw an opportunity to give East Austin residents a sculpture that was in a very real sense part of them. Expanding on his hands class project, he organized workshops with the assistance of Totally Cool/Totally Art program coordinator, Clinton Hofmeister, TCTA Specialist Kelly Hasandras, the Pan American and the Parque Zaragoza Recreation Centers. During these workshops Ben took molds of the hands of over 100 East Austin youths and adults. The hands were casted in aluminum, carefully composed, dyed and attached onto the panels to create a relief sculpture.
Ben’s work tells the story of community and commonality. Hands symbolize cooperation and progress as well as tradition and heritage. The hands on Ben’s obelisco do not just “tell the stories of the neighborhood” they are the people in the community.
Below you can follow Ben’s process from Conception, Creation, to Installation.