By Leona Baker | August 23, 2011
More than 75,000 people lined up for their chance to ride the Tide light rail system during its recent grand opening weekend in Norfolk, Virginia. Among them was Virginia Wesleyan art professor John Rudel, whose art work has become a permanent fixture at the light rail station at Harbor Park, home of the Norfolk Tides baseball team.
Rudel was one of approximately a dozen artists whose work was selected for installation in the light rail stations as part of the city's public art program. The artists were honored at a public dedication ceremony on Aug. 20. Norfolk Mayor Paul Fraim was among the speakers who lauded their efforts and emphasized the importance of public art in creating a sense of community. Rudel was one of several artists who also spoke at the ceremony.
"A very meaningful feedback loop is developed when artists who inhabit a region are invited to become culture creators within that region," Rudel said, "and that's exactly what the public art program is facilitating. Being selected to create the glass imagery for Harbor Park station has meant a lot to me and I hope that it is enjoyed by many."
In order to complete the project, Rudel had to teach himself how to sandblast onto glass. In keeping with the installation's proximity to Harbor Park, he worked with Virginia Wesleyan Head Baseball Coach Nick Boothe to capture images of VWC baseball team members in action. He used the images as inspiration for some of the figures he created on a series of glass panels to be installed at the station.
"I am very pleased with how it turned out," Rudel said. "Over the summer I spent countless hours in the studio at the Fine Arts Building working on the design and performing the actual sandblasting process to make the images. At one point I had over 1,000 pounds of black sand covering the studio floor in FA 9."
In addition to the Harbor Park light rail project, Rudel has another piece of public art—a series of images of eyes—that will be installed at Norfolk's Macarthur Center in the coming weeks as part of the city's Emerging Leaders program.