The Arts Council, Inc., in partnership with Twickenham Square Venture LLC, Huntsville Housing Authority and the City of Huntsville, invites the community to celebrate the dedication of the public art installation 'We Gather Here to Honor.' This site-specific public art commission honors the contributions of Dr. William Hooper Councill and Dr. Sonnie Hereford III to education in Huntsville, memorializes the history of African American education in the area and celebrates the community`s future educational hopes and aspirations. The installation features a tile bench in the shape of a sunflower, with flower petals created from the footprints of Dr. Hereford III, city leaders and community members.
The dedication will be held at Twickenham Square on Pelham Avenue between Gallatin Street and Dorothy Ford Lane on Friday, October 23rd at 10 a.m. A Community Celebration will be held at the same location on Saturday, October 24th from 9 - 11 a.m. Both events are free and open to the public.
Saturday`s celebration will feature music performances by local saxophonist Reginald Jackson and performers from Valley Conservatory of Music. The Boys and Girls Club, Huntsville/Madison County Public Library, Earlyworks Family of Museums, Fantasy Playhouse Children`s Theater & Academy and The Arts Council will also be on-site with children`s activities, information and interactive experiences. Attendees will also have the opportunity to leave their fingerprints on their own sunflower through a hands-on art project that mirrors the aesthetics and significance of the public art installation.
'At The Arts Council, we were privileged to engage the community in the creation of this public art piece, and we`re now delighted to invite children and adults from across the city to celebrate the project this weekend,' said Allison Dillon-Jauken, Executive Director of The Arts Council, Inc.
The artwork specifically honors the contributions of Dr. William Hooper Councill and Dr. Sonnie Hereford III to education in the area. In the 1860`s, Dr. Councill was a pioneer in education for African American students in Huntsville and served as the first principal of The State Colored Normal School which trained African American teachers and grew into Alabama A & M University. In 1963, Dr. Hereford made more education history on the day he enrolled his son, Sonnie the IV in Fifth Avenue School as the first African American student to attend a white public school in Alabama. The sites of the former Fifth Avenue School and Councill High School are both geographically close to the Twickenham Square development, and the top of the bench installation reveals details of Dr. Councill and Dr. Hereford`s contributions to education.
During installation of the public art piece, Dr. Hereford recalled how things have changed since he first walked his son to the schoolhouse door. 'Today I am being honored with monuments, plaques and medals, but 40 years ago people cursed and threw rocks at me,' said Hereford. 'I am overwhelmed and honored. Times are changing and I hope they`re going to get even better.'
'We Gather Here to Honor' was first conceived in 2012 in conjunction with Huntsville Housing Authority`s sale of 6 acres of land associated with the former Councill Courts public housing development. In preparing for the sale of the property, Huntsville Housing Authority`s Board of Commissioners discussed the value of public art and the potential to use it to celebrate Huntsville`s history and accomplishments. 'Although Twickenham Square has transformed the former Councill Courts public housing site into a vibrant downtown mixed-use community, it is important that this public art is a reminder of our rich and important history," said Michael Lundy, Executive Director of the Huntsville Housing Authority. 'We are truly grateful to our partners for insisting on the active participation of the former residents of the Councill Courts public housing site as well as the larger community in this most important public art.'
Early in the development of Twickenham Square, the project partners reached out to Ohio-based tile artist Angelica Pozo about the public art installation. Ms. Pozo was first introduced to the community as a speaker at the 2009 Alabama Clay Conference hosted in Huntsville. Her work largely focuses on enlisting community involvement in the creation of public art projects. The public art installation was designed to serve as an artistic focal point in the heart of Twickenham Square, honoring the community's stories and the nearby African American educational sites.