Courtesy: Evy Mages
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Washington, District of Columbia*

Craig A. Kraft (

Watha T. Daniel-Shaw - District of Columbia Public Library, the work is situated outside the front entrance, 1630 7th St NW, Washington, District of Columbia*, 20001
Owner:  District of Columbia
Date:  2006, 2010
Placement:  libraries (buildings)
Collection:  DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities' DC Creates! Public Art Program
Artwork Type:  outdoor sculpture
Material:  aluminum (metal), paint, neon
Description:  I have lived in the Shaw neighborhood for the past 13 years. During that time, I have seen the neighborhood transition from one categorized by urban blight to one of revitalization and growing prosperity. Once defined by despair and danger, Shaw has begun to evolve through a renaissance of development and hope. As the neighborhood’s past history illustrates, Shaw was once home to numerous Jazz artists beyond Duke Ellington and saw the genesis of the musical genre of Jazz emerge from its houses and storefronts. Although Shaw is known for its tough edge, artists of all types have long called Shaw their home, long before the recent redevelopment efforts.

Still today much of the neighborhood remains without outward expressions of color or cultural vibrancy, as is seen in other surrounding DC areas that have experienced revitalization. The past suggests that what is needed now is a landmark that embodies the future and inspires it’s residents and the community at large.

The new Watha T. Daniel Library is an exceptional and appropriate landmark for Shaw. The incorporation of Jazz as the central theme and identifying characteristic of the building and the public sculpture is an ideal expression of Shaw’s rich cultural heritage and spirit of creativity and rebirth. As a part of the Shaw community for the last 13 years, I feel that my perspective as a resident, neighbor and artist offer a unique perspective for creating an equally important, appropriate and impactful sculpture for the site. My proposed sculpture embodies the spirit of creativity, vibrancy and color that once filled the Shaw neighborhood, offering optimism for our neighborhood’s future.

If awarded the Shaw smART streets commission, I will fabricate the sculpture on site at my home and studio, located in historic Firehouse #7, DC’s first and only privately owned African-American firehouse. The site is located directly behind Shaw Junior High School, which offers opportunity not only for public interaction, but also for student participation in the project through internships and open studio experiences. I can bring not only my creative talents and expertise, but also a direct connection to the neighborhood, to the community and to the new Watha T. Daniel Library site.

Like Jazz, Vivace embodies freedom and inspiration as well as a carefully crafted composition of form and color. Both are characterized by an absolute focus and relaxation of a rigid structure or standard. Vivace was inspired by the innate and evolutionary power and perseverance of the art of Jazz. This inspiration is based on a keen sense of the power of public sculpture, yet can be characterized as fresh and original. There is a sense of the simultaneous pleasure of vivid, colorful form and open space. Like Jazz, Vivace strives to push our sensory limits into new arenas and new context, such as in front of a public library.

As an intensely colored voluminous line in space, there is nothing that compares with neon mounted on three-dimensional rolled metal tubing (an innovative technique developed by Craig Kraft). Jazz and neon are intertwined historically as well. Both emerged in American culture in the first few decades of the 20th century. Duke Ellington established his first band in the District of Columbia in 1917, while in France neon was gathering public acclaim. By 1923 neon had traveled from France to Los Angeles and then quickly moved to New York, Las Vegas and beyond. In the following years Jazz and neon grew in both expressiveness and influence, becoming popularized in the mainstream and public appreciation. Neon light and Jazz are a natural pair as they both come alive and are most vibrant at night. In jazz clubs throughout the world Jazz has traditionally been bathed in the glow of neon light. The unique site of the Watha T. Daniel Library offers an ideal stage to showcase both the historical significance of Jazz and the connections to neon as a sculptural medium.



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