Nats’ Opening Day Showcases New Artwork

Posted April 13, 2009 at 11:13am

Starting with today’s opening day at Nationals Park, visitors should look for four new art pieces celebrating three generations of baseball icons — Frank “Hondo— Howard, Josh Gibson and Walter Johnson.

Funded by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the artwork at Nationals Park started as a partnership between the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission (an independent agency of the D.C. government) and the Nationals.

With today’s game between the Nats and the Philadelphia Phillies, Nationals Park will present the three statues and one installation.

Today also marks the reopening of the Red Porch Restaurant. In addition to traditional concession-stand food, the restaurant provides “a sit-down dinner experience,— said Lisa Pagano, Washington Nationals communications manager. New additions include healthier meals and snacks.

At the unveiling of the new art pieces last week, the only living honoree, 72-year-old Howard said, “I think I finally got my college degree,— about being honored for his achievements at the field.

Howard is a former left and right fielder, coach and manager in Major League Baseball. He spent the biggest part of his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Senators, starting in 1958 and retiring from baseball in 1973.

[IMGCAP(1)]Looking at the larger-than-life-size bronze image made by artist Omri Amrany, Howard said, “I’m flattered — it’ s a sensation.—

His statue was placed near the entrance at the Center Field Plaza together with statues of the Washington Senators’ Johnson (1887-1946) and Gibson (1911-1947) of the Negro League’s Homestead Grays.

Innovation is key for artist Amrany, who mainly works in bronze. “What can you do in the 21st century that was not done in the 20th?— he said. “I always look at the positions and the momentum.—

Israeli-born Amrany said that growing up he “didn’t know anything about baseball.— But after moving to Illinois, he and his wife, Julie Rotblatt-Amrany, have specialized in sports imagery and have commissions with several stadiums in the country.

Funding for the artwork came from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities’ program for public art, said Anne Ashmore-Hudson, chairwoman of the DCCAH.

The works of art add “history, entertainment and beauty, humanity and fun.— Ashmore-Hudson said.

Artist Walter Kravitz’s mobile installation, “The Ballgame,— was placed along the concourse at the top of the Grand Staircase. It is a celebration of the game of baseball and commemorates his own memories of it, according to Kravitz.

The colorful steel creation of 48 figures of players lights up at night “so you have to come to a night game,— Kravitz said.

When the sun sparkles on the bronze players at the entrance to the stadium, it seems as if arts and sports have come together for a joint experience.