Percent for Art Program Announces New Public Art Commission at the Viaduct Rail Park

Percent for Art Program Announces New Public Art Commission at the Viaduct Rail Park

The Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy's Percent for Art Program (OACCE), Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Center City District, and the Friends of the Rail Park are pleased to announce a new site-specific public art commission by Philadelphia-based artists, Brent Wahl and Laynie Browne.

Visual artist Brent Wahl and poet Laynie Browne will create an installation that consists of two parts, a sculpture created using a telephone pole as its core structural element, and embedded pavers with engraved poetry. In this collaboration, Wahl will drive the sculptural work and Browne will assemble the text.

"As we were thinking about why people love this landscape and what makes it unique, we realized that it was about both what was lurking above and underfoot; hence the sculpture above and the pavers below," said Mr. Wahl.

Percent for Art Program Announces New Public Art Commission at the Viaduct Rail Park

View from below, the 35-foot telephone sculpture is on the left, nestled in the park among the trees
Rendering courtesy of Brent Wahl & Laynie Browne and Studio Bryan Hanes


The sculpture uses historical photography as a point of inspiration. During their study of the site's history, the artists settled on "communication" as a central theme and decided to use a form that they found repeatedly in their research of the railroad: the telegraph and then the telephone pole. The artists sought to mimic this aesthetic in a contemporary sense by implementing the visible color spectrum suffused in casted bird forms and the use of small surface components that will reflect the sky. In addition, the sculpture will radiate out in different directions, alluding to the cardinal and intermediate directions found on a compass.

The poetry element will consist of engraved granite pavers, which will be embedded at various points throughout the walkway. As one approaches the sculpture, they will become denser in number to draw people's attention to the site.

"A curated constellation of text-based work will frame and ground the overall installation. Excerpts from poetry selected for this project will speak to concepts of transmission and communication in a multi-lingual meeting place," said Browne. "Text engraved along the pathway and the sculpture itself will be integrated into the design of the park, engaging visitors with the landscaped environment around them and providing contemplative space."

The overall installation links ground, the canopy above head and sky. The artists envision the installation encouraging visitors to pass through the enriched viaduct park and experience the installation that evokes history and reflects elements of the natural environment.


Percent for Art Program Announces New Public Art Commission at the Viaduct Rail Park
Historical image of the Viaduct, Arch to Market Street
Image courtesy of the City of Philadelphia, Department of Records

Percent for Art Program Announces New Public Art Commission at the Viaduct Rail Park
Day and evening views from the park
Rendering courtesy of Brent Wahl & Laynie Browne and Studio Bryan Hanes

This Percent for Art commission coincides with a $10.3 million Phase I renovation and re-purposing of the Reading Viaduct into the Viaduct Rail Park. Extending for a quarter mile on a currently defunct elevated rail line, the new park will include areas of planting and seating, with the main walkway culminating in a series of monumental civic-scale swings which can be seen from the street below. The park will transform the neglected railway into a vibrant neighborhood park, becoming a social hub and green space for the area's diverse and growing community. Renovation of the park is led by Center City District and upon completion, the park will be maintained by the City of Philadelphia.

About the Artists

Brent Wahl is a Philadelphia-based artist. His studio practice is rooted in the precarious construction and subsequent photography of ephemeral materials. Wahl's work abstracts known materials as an investigation of optical and spatial shifts. He is primarily interested in various cultural phenomenon, illusion, time and the spectacle. His work has taken the form of traditional photography, site-specific installations, and video. His work has been widely exhibited and his awards include a Pew Fellowships in the Arts. Mr. Wahl is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania where he was awarded the PennDesign Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching Award in 2015.

Laynie Browne is a Philadelphia-based poet. She is the author of numerous collections of poetry and one novel. Her honors include a Pew Fellowships in the Arts Fellowship, winner of the National Poetry Series, of the Contemporary Poetry Series, two Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative American Poetry, and a Pushcart Prize Nomination. Her work has been anthologized in Not For Mothers Only (Fence Books), Wreckage of Reason, An Anthology of Contemporary Xxperimental Prose by Women Writers, (Spuytenduyvil), and in The Reality Street Book of Sonnets (Reality Street, U.K.).

This Percent for Art opportunity was nationally announced as an open call to artists and artist teams in September 2015. Five finalists were selected to present proposals from a pool of 68 applicants. The selection panel consisted of: John McInerney, Vice President of Research & Communications, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance; Tristin Lowe, Artist; Yuka Yokoyama, Co-Director and Co-Curator, Marginal Utility. The Advisory Panel consisted of representatives from: the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Center City District, the Friends of the Rail Park, Studio Byran Hanes, Urban Engineers, and a conservator from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The selection panel unanimously selected Mr. Wahl and Ms. Browne's proposal.

About the Percent for Art Program

The Percent for Art Program of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy commissions exceptional and enduring works of site-specific public art by renowned and emerging artists for City of Philadelphia buildings and public spaces. Philadelphia's public art collection is recognized as the largest and most remarkable in the world. Since 1959, more than 300 works of art have been commissioned through the City of Philadelphia's Percent for Art Ordinance. For more information about the Percent for Art Program, visit: www.CreativePHL.org, Facebook.com/CreativePHL and on Twitter @CreativePHL and Instagram @CreativePHL.

About City of Philadelphia's Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy


The Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy supports and promote arts, culture and the creative industries; develops partnerships that ensure culture and creativity are essential components of Philadelphia's community revitalization, education, and economic development strategies; and links Philadelphians to cultural resources and opportunities. For more information about the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, visit: www.CreativePHL.org, Facebook.com/CreativePHL and on Twitter @CreativePHL and Instagram @CreativePHL.<


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