Newest Public Art Installation Coming to Alexandria’s Waterfront Park
The City of Alexandria will unveil its newest public art installation, “Two Boxes of Oranges and Admonia Jackson,” in Alexandria’s Waterfront Park (1 Prince St.) at a free opening celebration for the community on Saturday, March 25, from 2 to 5 p.m. This new temporary installation by Nina Cooke John of Studio Cooke John is the fifth in the “Site See: New Views in Old Town” annual public art series that launched in 2019 and will be on display through November 2023. It follows R&R Studio’s 2022 “I Love You” installation.
Cooke John’s installation for Waterfront Park forms an abstracted ship’s hull with steel vertical elements that rise and bend, referencing the curve of the hull’s frame. The vertical elements spread across the site to form the rough outline of a ship. Visitors can stand within the space and imagine a time in Alexandria’s history when the ships carried not only cargo like tobacco, molasses, rum, and limes, but also enslaved people who were traded as part of the transatlantic and domestic slave trades.
Like an archaeological dig, the installation is layered. Text on the vertical elements and the ground reveals fragments of information taken from the manifests of ships that arrived to the Port of Alexandria in the 18th century. Lists of cargo such as “herring”, “coconuts” and “gin” are painted on the ground and embedded in the vertical elements alongside names found in the manifests, such as “Jane Tailor, female, 5’-2.” Also listed are “two boxes of oranges” and “Admonia Jackson.”
Approaching the installation from the exterior of the abstracted hull, visitors view one side, or layer, of history. Once inside the installation, a fuller story is revealed. Visitors can move in, through, and between the installation elements, reading the text, running their hands along the words, and stepping amongst the lists of items and individuals carried to and from Alexandria’s waterfront in the 18th century.
The “Site See” temporary public art series highlights Waterfront Park as a civic space, is informed by the historic waterfront and neighboring community, and is a key location for original commissioned art in Alexandria. Nina Cooke John was selected to create this site-specific artwork by a community task force with approval from the Alexandria Commission for the Arts. The City of Alexandria will also work with regional artists to create art activations in response to the artwork later this year.
“Through the ‘Site See’ series, we continue to bring engaging, contemporary art to Alexandria’s unique waterfront,” said Diane Ruggiero, director of Alexandria’s Office of the Arts and deputy director for the Department of Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities (RPCA). “The public has truly embraced this series and each of the unique installations and we look forward to sharing Nina’s work with Alexandria’s residents and visitors.”
Visitors can see “Two Boxes of Oranges and “Admonia Jackson” at Waterfront Park from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily starting Saturday, March 25. The artwork will remain on view until November 2023.
Visit alexandriava.gov/PublicArt for more information about “Two Boxes of Oranges and Admonia Jackson” and the “Site See” public art series.
About Nina Cooke John
Nina Cooke John is the founding principal of Studio Cooke John Architecture and Design, a multidisciplinary design studio that values placemaking as a way to transform relationships between people and the built environment. Nina’s work has also been featured in “Architectural Record”, “Madame Architect”, on NBC’s “Open House New York”, in Dwell Magazine’s “13 Extraordinary Women in Design and Architecture You Need to Know” and the Center for Architecture’s 2018 exhibition, “Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip-Hop Architecture”. Studio Cooke John has been selected to design the new Harriet Tubman Monument in Newark, is a part of the Elle Décor A-List for 2021 and 2022, and was named a 2022 USA Fellow in Architecture and Design.
Born in Jamaica, Nina has always been inspired by the creativity she witnessed in her homeland: the art of people transforming everyday hardships and limitations into innovative solutions through multiple spheres of life. She imbues this spirit of transformation and innovation into every project. Learn more at Nina Cooke John’s website or follow Studio Cooke John Architecture and Design on Instagram.
Public Art in Alexandria
The Office of the Arts seeks to amplify Alexandria’s reputation as an arts destination with world-class artwork that captures that public’s imagination. The “Site See” public art series is an annual rotation of temporary installations that showcase Alexandria’s public art program through innovative, exciting, high-quality contemporary art at the key riverfront location. The aim is to bring work that is unlike anything that can be experienced in the region.
To learn more about public art in Alexandria, review the Public Art Implementation Plan & Policy, or learn more about other public art projects in Alexandria. Visit alexandriava.gov/PublicArt or follow @alexartsoffice on Instagram and Twitter. Add to the conversation with #artsALX.