Alexandria, VA – Sometimes the groundhog and weatherman get it right. Winter ran long this year. Spring barely arrived on time. So on a glorious late-winter’s day, this Zebran ventured out to explore one of the latest public art projects to pop up in the West End.
Christina Fletcher’s “Flock” is one of three temporary public art projects funded via grants from the Alexandria Commission for the Arts. Fletcher’s idea was to explore the concept of togetherness while still maintaining interpersonal distance — the way of birds on a wire or a roofline or a fence flock together while equally spaced.
Approximately 100 colorful birds hang from trees along the Holmes Run Park Trail in the Seminary Valley neighborhood. That’s the West End, at the end of Latham Street, east to the Bicentennial Oak and west to the Pickett Street Bridge.
The various bird silhouettes are laser cut from a multicolored mosaic of plexiglass edged in copper. They are at once translucent and reflective, creating shadows and light beams simultaneously. Each bird represents a donor’s message, a memorial to a lost loved one, a joke, an homage, or simply a sponsor’s name.
Scores of people, dutifully masked and social distancing, explored the artistic aviary. Cyclists, skateboarders, baby-buggy strollers, runners and perambulators alike gazed in amazement at the flock of glittery birds bringing sparkle to the woodland trail.
In looking up, they may have missed the natural fauna making Holmes Run Trail their home. Grazing a few feet from a flock of iridescent seagulls was a small band of whitetail deer. Watching with feigned disinterest was the neighborhood cockatoo, Snowflake, out of his nearby house for a tour of these suspicious birds of a most different feather.
Did you know that Holmes Run is home to one of the oldest trees in the area? When the Bicentennial Tree, a willow oak, was commemorated in 1977, it was believed to be 270 years old, making it to now be about 315. In the years leading up to the Bicentennial, a group of dedicated Alexandrians formed the Bicentennial Tree Project. Seventeen trees in the city were identified as having been living witnesses to the American Revolution. The Holmes Run Quercus Phellos (willow oak) was officially declared Alexandria’s Bicentennial Tree.
In Z Hood recommends you take time to explore or re-explore Holmes Run Trail and two other new public art trails: Alexander Rudd’s “Standing Ground” cairn rock installation on Four Mile Run Park Trail and Thomas Sterner’s “Life of a Seed” five-sculpture installation on Potomac Yard Park Trail. All the public trail artwork will be on display through Memorial Day 2021.
Sometimes life imitates art as much as art reflects life. All the leaves were brown and the sky was blue-gray, I’d been for a walk on a late-winter’s day….