Rosslyn is in for a huge surprise.
Later this month, it will witness the unveiling of an 11,000-pound aluminum sculpture in front of the new Kaempfer Co. building at 1525 Wilson Blvd., the site of a soon-to-open Safeway food store.
"It's going to be noticed," said Katherine T. Freshley, executive director of the Arlington Arts Center. "It's big and it's fun."
The sculpture was commissioned by the company's president, J.W. Kaempfer Jr., after he fell in love with painted figures of two dancers by New York artist Miriam Schapiro. Kaempfer asked Schapiro to bring the dancers to life in the form of a brightly colored, 35-foot-high sculpture.
"I think people are going to be delighted," he said.
The Rosslyn sculpture, described by one county official as "really dynamic," is one of a number of Arlington's coming attractions in the field of public art.
At the other end of the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, big things are expected to happen.
County officials expect Ballston, Arlington's "new downtown," to be redeveloped between 1995 and 2000. At that time, the 200-acre, 39-block area bounded by I-66, Glebe Road, Washington Boulevard and Quincy Street will include 6 million square feet of office space, more than a million square feet of retail space, at least 600 hotel rooms and about 5,000 residential units.
Because of the development's massive size, county officials, developers of the project, civic associations and members of the business and residential community got together two years ago to form the Ballston Partnership. The partnership, which today is a nonprofit organization with more than 275 members, is the guiding force behind the revitalization project. Its main purpose is to coordinate development at Ballston in an effort to achieve an aesthetically pleasing, varied and dynamic community.
"They don't want Rosslyn to happen again," said one county staff member.
One of the partnership's most significant groups is its urban design committee, which includes a team that focuses on public art. During the summer, that team sponsored a national contest in search of an artist to design three pieces of public art for three designated entrances to Ballston. More than 100 artists from around the country, as well as several abroad, entered the competition.
On Monday, a seven-member panel, which included four art experts, spent the day examining slides of the artists' works and selected six semifinalists.
Francoise Yohalem, a private art consultant hired to coordinate the competition, expects the artist to be selected by April. She said the decision to hire one artist to design all three pieces grew out of a feeling that the art should be connected, either in concept or design.
"It will give more homogeneity to the area," she said.
Yohalem said the artist will be given $150,000 to create the pieces, which most likely will be sculptures, and said the first piece could be in place by spring of 1989.
She said the competition signifies the general feeling among members of the Ballston Partnership that public art is a crucial ingredient to the success of a revitalized Ballston.
"It really can give people a sense of place," she said. "If you have a huge building 15 stories high and you have a beautiful piece of sculpture on the plaza level, it creates a much richer and more human environment."
The Arlington County Board has approved $75,000 toward the project.
"We need art," said Arlington County Board member Ellen M. Bozman, explaining the board's decision to fund the project. "Here we were presented with a good vehicle."
The art competition is one of several public art programs outlined in the so-called Ballston Public Art Master Plan, which was put together by Yohalem, artists and several members of the public art team. The plan also calls for public art along heavily traveled pedestrian corridors such as North Stuart Street, and at special points of interest such as parks and courtyards.
The public art group hopes to work closely with developers in an effort to encourage them to help select art for their specific projects and, at the same time, to get funding commitments from them.
"Virtually every developer is considering public art these days," said Economic Development Division Chief Tom Parker, a member of the partnership.
Arlington has about 10 pieces of outdoor public art. Some members of the partnership say they would not be surprised to see twice that number at Ballston alone when redevelopment there is complete.
"Ballston is our new downtown," Bozman said. "It's a perfect place for the visual attractions that people enjoy."
Virtually everyone involved in bringing public art to Ballston predicts that results will be promising because the process is being carefully planned.
"A lot of times, you find art is imposed," said Freshley, a member of the partnership. "I think what we're trying to achieve in Ballston is how to plan it in an intelligent way."
Artist Jim Sanborn said, "All too often in the recent past, public art has been looked upon as a Band-Aid for poor city planning." Sanborn designed a piece of sculpture last year behind the Weissberg Corp. building at 2500 Wilson Blvd.
When too many Band-Aids are applied, Sanborn said, "the sculptures end up shouting at each other . . . . Planning is extremely important."
The planning for art at Ballston comes as the county's Cultural Affairs Division is doing its own brainstorming on the subject of public art.
Norma Kaplan, who heads the division, said the office is trying to develop more public art programs.
"We want to find new ways to find Arlington artists the means to work and to pay them," she said. "We're trying to find new jobs for them . . . . One of our big thrusts has been doing more in exhibitions."
She said one of her new staff members, Rita Bartolo, has been instrumental in helping create programs.
Bartolo, the county's representative on the panel judging the Ballston gateway competition, became the county's visual arts supervisor in February. Last spring, she found four Arlington artists to design sculptures for Lubber Run Park. The artists were paid $350 each for their work and the sculptures were installed during the summer, when the park is used for concerts.
"I felt we really needed a strong, visual arts statement there," said Kaplan, who described the sculptures in the park concept as "brilliant."
Using funds from a minority grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, Bartolo also commissioned a mural by Arlington artist Efrain Guevara. Titled "Ancestral Memories," the mural is a colorful celebration of Hispanic ancestral tradition.
"One of the intentions I had was to take it into the Hispanic neighborhoods," Bartolo said. The mural is on display at the Aurora Hills Recreation Center, and it will later tour Arlington neighborhoods, she said.
Kaplan and Bartolo say they want to continue the kind of programs that support local artists.
Meanwhile, the Cultural Affairs Division can look ahead to a new headquarters at Ballston. Radnor/Buchanan, which is building The Ellipse at Ballston, a five-building project, has promised to donate 5,000 square feet to the county for a new cultural center.
Peggy Dubynin, project manager for the development, said she expects the space to be used primarily as exhibition space with a multipurpose room and several administrative offices. Dubynin said the space will be on the ground floor of a nine-story office building on Fairfax Street and expects it could be ready by early 1990.
Kaplan said she is thrilled about the prospect of getting more exhibition space, something that the Cultural Affairs Division has lacked. "I think it's the best thing that's happened to us since white bread," she said.