By Jamie Rogers
The newest phase of Tysons Corner Center in Fairfax County is for the birds, thanks to a trio of talented George Mason University artists.
Peter Winant, the director of the School of Art, and Tom Ashcraft, the lead professor of the school’s sculpture program, along with their undergraduate assistant, the appropriately named Park Swan, have worked to create “Early Bird,” a 3-D piece of art with a nifty nest in the brand-new Plaza at Tysons Corner Center.
It’s not actually one piece of art, but several dozen bronze bird sculptures perched around the 1.5-acre green space overlooking the new Tysons Corner Metro Station, Chain Bridge Road and the Capital Beltway.
Five bird species are represented: the morning dove, the red-tailed hawk, the robin, the crow and the cardinal, the Virginia state bird, Ashcraft says, adding, “There’s great imagery and folklore associated with these birds. The plaza has a lot going on architecturally; we didn’t want to compete with it, but complement it. You don’t want to saturate it [in birds]. It takes away the sense of discovery.”
At the end of June, 19 of the 63 birds had been installed. Before the installation, there was a 12-week casting process. The birds aren’t painted, but each has a coat of a patina, a chemical brush-on that, when heated, oxidizes the bronze surface of the bird, giving it color.
Ashcraft says he and Winant have had a great working relationship with Macerich, the real estate investment trust that owns Tysons Corner Center. Macerich approached the university about a year ago to create a public artwork in the new plaza. A portion of the commission will be used to fund a School of Art scholarship.
The plaza will feature a playground, 30 fire pits, an entertainment area for weekly movie nights and a concert series, as well as a German market during the Christmas shopping season, says Bob Maurer, director of marketing for Tysons Corner Center.
The site will be activated on July 25, a day before the opening of the Metro Silver Line, which is expected to be an integral part of bringing customers and workers to the area.
Several new restaurants, the Hyatt Regency and VITA, an upscale apartment community, will all open on the plaza within the next year, Maurer says.
The regional offices of Deloitte along with Intelsat, the company that inspired the name Early Bird, will both open new offices on the plaza, Ashcraft says.
Early Bird is the name of Intelsat’s first communications satellite. It was launched into orbit on April 6, 1965.
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