Approaching by boat, visitors will be welcomed by a “giant” familiar to most Washington, DC region residents. J. Seward Johnson’s beloved sculpture, “The Awakening,” resides on the waterfront of National Harbor, emerging from the sandy beaches just as the city emerges from the Potomac River. With five cast-aluminum pieces at more than 70 feet across, the sculpture has become a favorite place for children to climb and play around. Previously owned by the Sculpture Foundation, the Peterson Companies, the developer of National Harbor, purchased the sculpture to be the centerpiece of this new community on the river. Johnson is well-known for his trompe l’oeil bronze-painted sculptures and is the past President of the International Sculpture Center of Washington, DC.
Visitors to National Harbor arriving by car will first encounter internationally-renowned artist Albert Paley’s “The Beckoning,” towering 85 feet into the sky. The vibrant, abstract sculpture welcomes all who enter the property. Made of corten steel, the sculpture symbolizes the exciting emergence of the new city rising from the banks of the Potomac River. Paley’s other work in the Washington, DC area includes gates at the Enid Haupt garden of the Smithsonian Castle and a gate at the National Cathedral. He is the first metal sculptor to receive the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute of Architects, the AIA’s highest award bestowed upon non-architects.
Steven Weitzman has created a spectacular terrazzo mural that resides at the end of American Way on the Belvedere before visitors descend the Spanish Steps to National Harbor’s waterfront. This 1,600 square-foot terrazzo portrays the history and geography of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, and includes over 70 elements of local history and lore, including images of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Weitzman has working in Washington, DC since 1985 and has garnered recognition for his work at the United Nations, the National Zoo, and for public spaces throughout the region and across the nation.
Albert Paley has also created two 4,500-lb stainless steel eagles for National Harbor’s main plaza overlooking the Potomac River. With wingspans fourteen feet each atop 60 foot poles, visitors strolling down National Harbor’s main thoroughfare, American Way, encounter the eagles appearing to soar over the river.
Five in the Wind
Located on the banks of the Potomac River, local artist Norman Greene’s statue “Five in the Wind” evokes the spirit and feeling of standing on the edge of this new city by the water. Made of cast-stone, the larger-than-life sculpture depicts five people sitting on a rock, leaning on one another for support as they’re blown by the river’s wind. Greene hopes his sculpture gives people a sense of the feeling on the wind and the oneness with nature while standing along the beautiful National Harbor waterfront. Greene is a sculptor who has been awarded numerous community-based and public art commissions throughout the area. He has created works for the Montgomery County Arts and Humanities Council, the DC Commission on the Arts, and the Maryland State Art Council. Greene, a Takoma Park, MD resident, also founded the Takoma Park Guild artists’ group.
The steps from the Belvedere, reminiscent of Rome’s Spanish Steps, are lined with four panels, two metal and two mosaic, created by Cheryl Foster. Maryland’s Bounty is comprised of two 25’x6’ panels made of stained glass mosaic with mixed medium, symbolizing Maryland’s tie to the Chesapeake Bay. From left to right, the first panel includes a crab picker on the Eastern Shore digging for crabs with her knife; two giant hands holding a 6’ crab; a black crappie fish; a ship’s captain holding a basket of clams and oysters; and a rockfish, the state fish of Maryland. From left to right, the second panel includes a 16 year-old on the Maryland waterfront holding a basket of pumpkinseed fish, bass, and yellow perch fish; the commissioned admiral of the Chesapeake Bay, Carl White, holding a skipjack boat’s wheel; and a Boatwright, or ship-builder, holding oakum (tarred fiber), as he builds a ship’s deck.
Maryland’s Winners is comprised of two 25’x6’ panels. The first panel depicts the only father/son duo to win the Triple Crown, who hail from Prince George’s County – Gallant Fox, who won in 1930, and Omaha, the 1935 winner. The horses are portrayed in copper, brass, and stained glass. The second panel, made from aluminum, brass, and copper, depicts the three oldest skipjack boats in the Maryland fleet. The skipjack is Maryland’s state boat, and a symbol of the culture and heritage of the Chesapeake Bay. Foster is a Washington, DC native and a multimedia artist. A Howard University graduate, her large-scale murals can be seen at the Arlington National Cemetery Visitor’s Center, Fort McNair’s dining hall, and DC’s Office on Aging Wellness Center. She currently serves as a Master Artist in Residence foor the John F. Kennedy Center’s Community Partnership.
Tool de Force
Tool De Force is a 12 1/2-foot sculpture once housed at the National Building Museum, representing some of the tools used in the industry. Sculpted by David Stromeyer, it was donated to National Harbor in 2013.