After eight years, "The Administrator" is finally standing in the garden.
When the welded steel sculpture was donated to Loudoun County in 1997, the donor's hope was that it would grace the gardens of the new County Government Center in Leesburg. There were, however, no gardens.
So "The Administrator" -- a rust-red, somewhat dignified-looking one-eyed figure on a unicycle -- stayed in the lobby, cooped up behind automatic glass doors, waiting, along with two other would-be outdoor sculptures.
By 2002, the donor, Kerstin B. Pollack, who had since moved to California but had warm memories of life in the county, began getting antsy.
"I hope that Loudoun County will honor its artists by providing appropriate outside space for them," Pollack wrote county officials. "The sculptures were displayed on the lawn of our beautiful ten acres near Waterford and we wanted the population of Loudoun to be able to enjoy them for years to come."
But the delays continued. There were no clear county procedures for how to proceed, funds for an outdoor installation were elusive and the fate of "The Administrator" and his companions wasn't a top priority.
Four years ago, Sally Keefer, who works in the Board of Supervisors office, and who is an artist in her own right, began helping oversee Loudoun's little-noticed government art collection. She kept nudging on behalf of "The Administrator" and her sense of the importance of public art.
"A lot of people come through and don't even look -- just a beeline to an office," Keefer said.
To Keefer, the County Government Center is a vast canvas, a place to showcase local artists. She and members of the county's appointed Art Advisory Committee have hung the walls with works from a donated collection of scores of oil paintings, watercolors, maps and drawings, from Maggie Siner's "Two Barns in Hamilton" to Vinton Liddell Pickens's "Zoned Industrial."
The courtyard between the brick wall of the parking structure and the County Government Center's glass doors was the next step.
Keefer and the committee, which oversees the collection and organizes exhibits in an alcove that serves as a gallery outside the Board of Supervisors' meeting room, took the case of "The Administrator" to facilities managers, a horticulturist, a review board from the Town of Leesburg and a stone-base maker.
"It's just taken so doggone long," she said. "But we wanted to do it correctly."
Then in August, with no fanfare, "The Administrator" was bolted down in the shade of a tree between two holly bushes beside the parking lot. "Manta," a squat, impressionistic piece with a thick wing of metal curved around an industrial rod, and "Homage to Cats," a five-foot-high flat cat's head with big eyes and a fork nose, were also carried from the lobby and placed close by.
The setting isn't perfect yet, Keefer said.
The installation lacks plaques with the names of the pieces and their creators: Brian Kirk made "The Administrator"; Michael Clay, "Manta"; and Carmen Howell, "Homage."
Also, "this time of year they look a little sad because they don't have the bushes trimmed out to show them off at their best. . . . It's a little dark. When the leaves fall, you'll be able to see a lot better," Keefer said. Or maybe in the spring. "It ought to be pretty when we get the flowers and such around them."
Even so, Keefer said she is pleased they have finally arrived, even with the inevitable critiques.
"There are always people who say, 'Oh, this is great and wonderful,' and others who say, 'Oh, I don't like that.' You get both sides. . . . That's typical. That's art," she said.
Keefer is retiring at the end of the month, after 17 years with the county. She's going to spend more time making art and plans to come back to the government center to help the Art Advisory Committee. "The Administrator" will be there.
"It's just nice to see them in the place they were intended," she said.