Art Commission okays relocation of “Phoenix Rising”

In a relatively brief return to business, after an August hiatus, today the Philadelphia Art Commission offered its conceptual and final approval to four public projects.

Two concerned art pieces, two revolved around changes pegged for School District buildings. Most significantly for the city’s landscape was the application by the Center City District to relocate Phoenix Rising, an abstract sculpture by Emien Etting that’s dedicated to the work of Mayor Richardson Dilworth.

Now located in a dismal sunken setting that’s part of the soon-to-be-reworked Dilworth Plaza outside of City Hall, the sculpture’s new home will be at Dock Street and 38th Parallel Place, on a corner near Society Hill Towers.

The move is necessitated by the redesign of the Plaza and, the applicants explained, a Society Hill locale seemed an ideal way to mark one of the most lasting and significant contributions of the ex-Mayor.

Commissioners granted their approval, but suggested that the proposed lighting be toned down while the base of the aluminum and enamel work be raised to further ensure security.

The Commission responded with enthusiasm to a presentation by Philadelphia artist Tristan Lowe for his proposed installation in a new police facility being constructed in the Northeast. Lowe, who was selected in a national bid that drew 131 artists, explained his concept of a hanging work that will be crafted from argon-filled tubes. (The police officials on the judging team unanimously voted for the blue stuff over the red or neon, Lowe pointed out, laughing.)

The Commission devoted the most time to an addition and renovation proposed for Murrell Dobbins High School in North Philadelphia. The new building will echo elements, such as repetition, materials and scale, of the original; while the older building will receive replacement windows and a facade restoration.

Commission Chair Moe Brooker chastised the corp of applicants, drawing laughs from other commissioners, when they said that schools “typically” don’t consider public art installations and so Dobbins hadn’t either.

In addition to requesting that an art installation be considered, other asks that came with the Commission’s conceptual approval included a revisit of the rear facade proposed for the new building so it “looked less like the back of a chain restaurant,” more consideration given to lighting, and the creation of a new entrance.

In a speedier discussion, the Commission granted final approval to the construction of a new building at Logan Elementary School that now — in response to a former presentation — offered material samples and included increased green space. The Commissioners concluded by reviewing several administrative approvals and recent signage applications.

Contact the reporter at and follow her on Twitter @joanngreco

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