The Process: Public Art 900 Thayer in Silver Spring, MD – “Social Fabric”
Washington Glass School
December 27, 2019
Corner installation of “Social Fabric” public art at Fenton Apartments in Silver Spring, MD.
Washington Glass Studio began creating artwork options for developments on the site, starting in 2005, when the site first was being developed as a residential development called “The Adele”. After a review and approval by Montgomery County Arts Council, the project languished as the real estate market changed.
In 2013, WGS Studio began working with the developers that purchased that project site, Redbrick LMD. Working with the design team, WGS artists were inspired by the rich mixture of ethnic groups in Silver Spring. Imagery and patterns that were based on the cultural fabric and textiles, as well as indigenous weaving and embroidery patterns for tapestries, wraps, blankets and garments.
Artwork on the corner column made up of backlit glass panels would be a colorful reference to the cultures, and add a bright pop of color on the site.
The corner location of the artwork would also frame out the proposed future planned arts development that would be up the road from 900 Thayer, and the Montgomery County Review committee was keen on having the artwork go further – asking if the artwork could be extended all along the ground level of the new development. Happily, Redbrick Developers agreed, and the scope of the artwork was extended along the entire street level and apartment outdoor spaces.
The project stalled in 2015. In 2017, Chesapeake Realty Partners joined with Redbrick Developer and the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County in moving forward with the property proceeded with groundbreaking and construction of the development in June of 2018.
WGS Studio was contacted and engaged to fully develop the design. WGS revisited the idea of incorporating cultural textile and fabric patterns would encourage viewers to appreciate the colorful patterns enlivening the streetscape, as well as promoting a message of open-mindedness, promote tolerance and curiosity about other cultures.
The brightly colored hand-screened glass features patterns were artistically based on Ethiopian textiles, African mudcoths, Central American weavings, European folkloric fabric prints, intricate and colorful ancestral weaving designs from Asia, Native American blankets, and Colonial American quilt patterns. Using identity and culture as the main theme of the building’s public artwork, WGS sought to inspire self-reflection, human connection, and conversation.
The Washington Glass Studio team worked on the production of the glass artwork starting in early 2019. Large silkscreen panels were made to allow the patterns to be enameled and fired in the WGS kilns. WGS Co-Director Erwin Timmers worked on the LED design and integration of the glass artwork.
Over 60 18″ x 18″ panels were made – and were to be mounted in a variety of multi-panel arrangements.
The installation on site began in October of 2019, and as the building occupancy needed the artwork to be completed to allow for certification, a focused WGS team made short work of the outdoor artwork installation.
Location: 900 Thayer Avenue, Silver Spring MD, 20910
Washington Glass Studio Public Art Team: Michael Janis, Tim Tate, Erwin Timmers, Teri Bailey and Patricia De Poel Wilberg.