Charlotte’s public art scene just grew — more than a little — with the May 13 installation of Chicago-based artist Richard Hunt’s “Spiral Odyssey” in Romare Bearden Park.

You’ll find the sculpture in the park’s Maudell’s Garden, near West Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

It’s hard to miss.

Made of welded stainless steel, this eye-catching sculpture is nearly 30 feet tall and weighs approximately 8,000 pounds. For comparison’s sake, the Firebird, outside Bechtler Museum of Modern Art, is about 17 feet tall.

This work has a special connection to Romare Bearden.

Richard Hunt

The artist, Richard Hunt, was a contemporary of Bearden. The two were the first African-American artists to have solo shows at the Museum of Modern Art, both in 1971.

Hunt drew inspiration from Bearden. In a statement, the artist said, “The ‘Odyssey’ in the title refers to Romare Bearden’s series of works that took Homer’s epic poem as a point of inspiration and departure. ‘Odyssey’ is also a way to refer to Bearden’s personal journey alone and with others, his peers, his artistic offspring and his world of admirers.

“‘Spiral’ in my title has multiple associations. One was his pivotal role in the joining together of African-American artists in 1963 in New York to share ideas on arts activism in the context of the Civil Rights Movement, the complexities of career development, and the art of politics. Also considered in the work is the widening, elevating spiral of Bearden’s multifaceted career which even in its legacy phase continues to ascend.”

In the upward swirl of “Spiral Odyssey” some shapes seem to suggest Poseidon’s trident or Athena’s spear.

The installation, which cost $305,000, was funded by a Mecklenburg County fund for public art, contributions from Duke Energy and Arts and Science Council, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and North Carolina Arts Council.

It’s too early to know if the new sculpture will become one of the iconic symbols of the city, but on a clear Sunday morning, a number of parents were already setting their kids up in front of it for photo ops, so it’s starting strong.

Photos: Courtesy of Arts and Science Council; Jody Mace

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