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Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) is the local nonprofit arts and culture agency that enhances the city’s quality of life through advancing and investing in the arts and diverse cultural programming. The work of HAA encourages Houston’s development and shapes its global reputation by fostering tourism and supporting and promoting the city’s creative economy.

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Creating public spaces for civic and cultural use requires artists, designers, architects, and the community to collaborate. By actively fostering these partnerships, both public and private, HAA’s Civic Art + Design program initiates, manages, and maintains public artworks throughout Houston. It serves a vital role as catalyst for change that generates a culturally relevant and rich environment for residents and visitors alike.

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Grants are a fundamental means of promoting excellence in the creative sector. On behalf of the City of Houston, HAA awards approximately 225 grants annually to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and individual artists through a competitive grant allocation process.

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HAA ANNOUNCES MAJOR EXTERIOR ARTWORK COMMISSION AS PART OF GEORGE R. BROWN CONVENTION CENTER


March 9, 2017

HOUSTON (March 9, 2017) - Houston Arts Alliance (HAA) announced that Joe O’Connell + Creative Machines' Wings Over Water, the massive kinetic sculpture within the Fountain of the Americas, has been completed.

One of the governing metaphors behind the redesign of the George R. Brown Convention Center plaza is migration. At first glance, Wings Over Water is about birds migrating northward, flying over the Gulf and resting when they get here. “The connection between avian and human migration reflects our diverse population, but also the idea that people come to Houston from throughout the Americas and beyond,” states artist Joe O’Connell. “On a deeper level Wings Over Water is about people who work hard to settle here. Many immigrants from the rural South and South and Central American countries get their start in the modern economy by moving to Houston, with its relatively affordable housing, good starting wages and acceptance of diversity. In a sense, these people have made their own flight over water before resting in Houston.”

Wings Over Water within the Fountain of the Americas will bring visitor interaction through dynamic public art to the front door of the George R. Brown,” says Dawn Ullrich, president and CEO of Houston First Corporation. “Building off of the energy of Discovery Green Park, the renovations to the Brown itself and the other projects in the Convention District are designed to expand this space as a gathering spot for both locals and visitors to the city.”

“Our Civic Art + Design program worked closely with O’Connell + Creative Machines for almost two years to realize and install this hallmark of public art and a signature work for Houston,” said Philamena Baird, chairman of the board of Houston Arts Alliance. “Civic Art is a key strategy in accomplishing the goal of creating an inviting public space for visitors and Houstonians."

With a huge pool of water as its base, the kinetic sculpture (70 feet wide x 30 feet high) has massive wings made of stainless steel, aluminum and Stamisol fabric “feathers.” The wings move in a smooth and natural motion—inviting viewers to spend a few minutes watching the mesmerizing movement of the undulating surfaces. The fountain cycles through preprogrammed water displays, fog effects and light sequences  of movement creating a constantly changing visual experience. “The lower half is about industry. The helical driveshaft looks like a pipeline. The pushrods pumping up and down in synchrony are a nod to oil drilling. At the top, however, the coordinated translucent wings evoke the structures and motions of nature. Together the parts of the sculpture evoke the story of Houston - industry connected to nature,” says O’Connel

“With its combination of machine and nature, simplicity and complexity, strength and beauty Wings Over Water is a mashup of all things Houston. At some point, everyone comes to a time in their life where they feel like they are flying over water - no safe place to land, nothing to do but continue on. With its relentless motion Wings Over Water presents an image that invites every person to imagine themselves as that bird flying over water in search of a safe place. If you stand in the right place by the side of the fountain and raise your arms, onlookers will see you with that giant 70-foot wingspan. We hope that will become a "selfie moment" for many and an image that people carry in their minds as they persevere in their own metaphoric flight over water,” adds O’Connell.

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