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By Janet Rems

Special to The Times

Early morning drivers on Reston Parkway passing by the green space in front of the Hyatt Regency Reston Hotel on June 26 may well have wondered what was happening there.

A large crowd, accompanied by FOX 5 Morning News anchor/reporter, Holly Morris, her television camera crew and 99-year-old Reston founder Robert E. Simon, were all gathered in the currently empty space. All the hoopla, including champagne mimosas for toasting and formal speeches, was in anticipation and celebration of a new permanent, public artwork for the site, a sculpture by Maryland artist Mary Ann Mears, who was also there.

Expected to be installed in September, the 20-foot tall, abstract aluminum sculpture, whose dominant color will be a bright yellow, is a joint project of the Reston Town Center Association (RTCA), Reston Community Center (RCC), Hyatt Regency Reston, and the Initiative for Public Art – Reston (IPAR).

Asked by Morris about the public art project, Joe Ritchey, IPAR founder and president, explained that the mission of the nonprofit he founded is to continue “Bob’s lead” and Simon’s “substantial commitment to art and culture” by bringing a new generation of public art to Reston as it continues to grow and prosper.

Simon, in turn, suggested that the June 26 celebration actually should be called “Joe Ritchey Day.” Simon told Morris, “There was a big hiatus, years and years, when nothing was done, and then Joe came along and said ‘hey!’ This is the result.”

David Eisenman, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Reston, said the hotel is equally “thrilled” be part of a project that will not only “transform the park” but also will “inspire the community.”

Morris, likewise, chimed in, “Art gives a community a sense of identity, which is really cool.”

Prior to creating the design of the sculpture, Mears visited the Town Center site numerous times and took photographs. She told Morris and those listening, “I wanted to create something life affirming and welcoming … graceful, elegant and a little bit whimsical.”

Curving forward and reaching skyward, the sculpture, Mears further explained, in additionally to signaling welcome to visitors, will echo the forms of the surrounding trees and be reminiscent of a new plant bursting from the ground.

She said, “The forms are organic, but I also want them to be very clean and hard-edged.”

Among Mears’ other considerations were how the scale and style of the Town Center’s architecture, especially the adjoining Hyatt Regency Reston hotel, would relate to the sculpture. Considered from all angles, Mears also considered how the sculpture will look when viewed from above from the hotel’s higher floors.

Also, because yellow objects look bigger, its exuberant color will enhance the scale and presence of the sculpture next to the much larger Hyatt building next door, she suggested.

The sculpture will be set on a bed of bluestone and held firmly in place by a poured concrete base. It is designed to allow people to move easily around it, and it will be illuminated at night by inward-directed LED lights.

Its estimated cost, according to Anne Delaney, executive director of IPAR, will be $70,000, plus an estimated $20,000, contributed by the Hyatt, for lighting. IPAR and RTCA have contributed $10,000 each; RCC’s contribution is $50,000.

After the site visit, the Hyatt Regency Reston hosted a reception where a short video, produced by South Lakes High School graduate and James Madison University film student Isabel Oliver, an IPAR intern, was screened. The video detailed the fabrication process of the artwork and included Mears talking about the challenges and satisfactions of creating such works.

All that folding and bending, cutting and shaping of the metal, Mears said, “there’s so much energy in that; you feel that latent energy in the finished piece.”