Paris has the Eiffel Tower.
St. Louis has the Gateway Arch.
And Baltimore could soon have a monumental work of art if a developer is successful in his quest to place a 236-foot-tall illuminated metal sculpture on the city’s waterfront as a focal point of a $1.5-billion development.
The sculpture would be one of the tallest works of art in the United States and visible for miles around, said Pat Turner, president of Turner Development Group. The art tower is part of a larger economic development strategy to call attention to the waterfront project that includes housing, offices, shops, a hotel and recreational space.
“We want the sculpture to be the center of attention of the project,” Turner said. “It does for Baltimore what the arch does in St. Louis. It would become a symbol of the region.”
Turner unveiled plans to the city’s Public Art Commission this week, showing how the untitled sculpture by Tennessee artist John Henry would be placed within a traffic circle on one of the major roads planned for the development.
As presented to the arts panel, the sculpture looked like a series of spikes or stiff blades of grass, radiating in different directions. Henry, who is based in Chattanooga, said that the sculpture would probably be made of perforated steel impregnated with light-emitting diodes and that he would want to set up a large local studio to fabricate it.
Henry and art consultant Stephanie Waters, executive director of the John Henry Baltimore Sculpture Project, said the sculpture was originally conceived for the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington, Ky., but was not completed in time for the event.
Henry said he “fell in love” with Baltimore while he was a patient at Johns Hopkins Hospital last winter and would be delighted if his sculpture could be erected along the waterfront.
The arts panel was not required to take any formal action because the sculpture would be built on privately owned land with private funds. Turner and Henry said it would not be in the way of jets departing or landing at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
Turner said he had begun to raise money for the sculpture and hoped to have it erected within two years. He said he did not yet have a firm cost estimate.