In Old Town, Everything Old Is New Again

The latest, “Groundswell” by Brooklyn-based artist Mark Reigelman was installed at the end of March for the public to enjoy at Waterfront Park until this November.

“Groundswell” is the latest public art to take Waterfront Park by storm

Brooklyn-based artist Mark Reigelman poses with his art installation “Groundswell” at Waterfront Park. (Photo: Laura Hatcher for the Alexandria Office of the Arts)

Alexandria, VA – Old Town’s merchant, commercial, and industrial histories inspired the first two annual public art series titled Site See: New Views in Old Town. New York artist/architect Michale Szivos of SOFTlab Studio designed “Mirror, Mirror.” When “Mirror, Mirror” was unveiled as the inaugural project for the Old Town Waterfront Park in March 2019, the interactive, reflective circle of prismatic panels attracted throngs of visitors. Children and adults alike on scooters encircled the installation tirelessly, disrupting friends and families posing for vacation memories while selfie-takers ambitiously uploaded pics on Insta.

The 2019 Waterfront Park installation, “Mirror, Mirror,” was first in the Site See: New Views in Old Town annual public art series. (Photo: Kelly MacConomy)
“Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies,” a temporary exhibit at Waterfront Park in 2020, is now permanently installed at the Cameron Street Pool. (Photo: Alexandria Office of the Arts)

In 2020, “Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies” by Olalekan Jeyifous depicted the African American diaspora in the Alexandria workforce from the 17th to 20th Centuries. This temporary art installation proved so popular that it has become a permanent, on exhibit in front of the Cameron Street public pool.

The latest, “Groundswell” by Brooklyn-based artist Mark Reigelman was installed at the end of March for the public to enjoy at Waterfront Park until this November.

“Groundswell” consists of 102 raw wood pier pilings, all 14 inches in diameter but of varying heights, reflecting different gradations of the Potomac riverbed. The riverbed is depicted by a topographical mural painted on the concrete base. The piling tops are decorated with bright blue mirrors etched to look like rough-hewn wood, emulating tree rings that mark the passage of time. The mirror effect reflects the sky above and the faces of those peering down at them, capturing movement, light off the water, clouds, even birds and planes.

The top of one of 102 pilings of varying heights at Waterfront Park, part of “Groundswell,” the new public art Site See: New Views in Old Town. (Photo: Kelly MacConomy)
On a perfect spring day, “Groundswells” is a mecca for tourists and scooters of all sizes. (Photo: Kelly MacConomy)

The installation is a nod to the history of the riverfront expansion during the past five centuries. Ghostly piers and pilings line the Potomac riverfront walkway. Alexandrians recall archeological finds of entire wooden ships uncovered during recent waterfront development. These ships were used as a landfill framework to extend Port City’s shoreline and expand the vibrant shipping industry of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Between the mecca of the Torpedo Factory and the Potomac waterfront on a perfect, summery spring day, families flock to “Groundswells” at Waterfront Park. (Photo: Kelly MacConomy)

The Zebra’s first visited “Groundswell” on a rainy afternoon. The gray day caused the ground mural to fuse with the sky, giving the pilings a spectral, haunting appearance. Waterfront Park was eerily abandoned, rare on any day at Waterfront Park. One almost expected the Female Stranger’s ship to make port, the fated couple to disembark to their destiny, the long black veiled beauty escorted arm in arm by her secretive escort, making their way up King Street to the comfort of Gadsby’s Tavern.

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