A wave of excitement and relief swept over DC artists Martha Jackson Jarvis and Njena Surae Jarvis when they learned their piece—entitled “Anacostia’s Sunrise/Sunset Portals”—was selected as the 11th Street Bridge Park’s first and largest public artwork. The mother-daughter duo’s work, which was commissioned for $400,000, will be stationed as a gateway to the park, in a green space along the Anacostia River.
The park, slated to open in 2025, will be the first elevated park in the District. It’s designed to connect communities on the east and west sides of the river, while providing space for recreation and the arts.
The artists have a long history in the District. Surae Jarvis, a Duke Ellington School of Arts alum, has works displayed at the National Portrait Gallery and the Smith Center for Healing Arts on U Street. Her mother Jackson Jarvis’s sculptures and public art are dispersed throughout the Washington area, including at the Anacostia and Van Ness metro stations, and Prince George County Courthouse.
Jackson Jarvis says she’s always had a deep love for nature, especially for the Anacostia River. She created her mosaic mural for the Anacostia metro— “River Spirits of the Anacostia”—years ago. She says she wants the new piece to showcase the beauty of the river, too. “We expect people to live and breathe and move around it, to picnic around it, to move through,” Jackson Jarvis says. “To have it become a landmark—a functional landmark.”
Made of aluminum steel and glass mosaic, the sculpture’s 11 multi-colored arches or “portals” are meant to mimic water ripples. Designed to be as tall as 20 feet, they transition from red, to green, to blue, echoing the color palette of a sunrise or sunset, reflecting off the river and its surrounding greenery. The sculpture will be interactive, not just with visitors, but with the environment itself, interplaying with the trees’ shadows and sun’s reflection.
Once completed, Surae Jarvis, who was born and raised in the District, says she hopes the artwork will serve as a community space. “A place where [people] can go and build memories,” she says. “You can go there and do what you want. It’s a sculpture, but it’s still an open space. I just hope it becomes a place where people will go and make it what they want.”
The remaining four artworks for the 11th Street Bridge Park will be announced in late April.