Organizations & Artists in Austin, San Antonio, and Houston Receive National Public Art Awards

by Jessica Fuentes September 5, 2023

Four Texas-based public art projects have received national recognition from CODAworx, a national organization that supports the commission of artworks as a way to transform environments. 

Each year CODAworx celebrates public art commissions in the following categories: commercial, education, healthcare, hospitality, landscape, liturgical, public spaces, residential, institutional, transportation, people’s choice, and team of the year. The selection this year was made by a panel of 18 international jurors, including: Kerry Adams-Hapner, Director, San Jose Department of Cultural Affairs; Herme-Armand Bechy, author, Introduction to Contemporary Public Art (France); Sandra Bloodworth, Director, MTA Arts and Design; Necole Irvin, Director, Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, Houston; Michael Mayer, President, Franz Mayer (Germany); and others.

In a press release, Toni Sikes, CEO of CODAworx, explained, “The CODAawards recognize the importance of collaboration, and honor design and art professionals whose collective imaginations create the public and private spaces that inspire us.”

This year, the University of Texas at Austin’s public art program, Landmarks, received its seventh CODAaward. The merit award was granted in the education category for the 2022 commission by Austin-born New York-based artist Sarah Oppenheimer

Detail of a sculpture with two panes of glass and two mirrors sandwiched between at an angle

Sarah Oppenheimer, Detail of “C-010106,” 2022, aluminum, steel, glass, and architecture, two forms: 191 x 125 x 35 inches and 156 x 125 x 35 inches. Courtesy of Landmarks, The University of Texas at Austin Photo by Richard Barnes

The piece, C-010106, was commissioned by Landmarks for UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering and consists of two structures at opposite ends of a new pedestrian footbridge connecting the Engineer Education & Research Center and the new Gary L. Thomas Energy Engineering Building. Each structure is made up of four panes of glass: two reflective surfaces that sit at 45-degree angles and are held in place between two transparent glass panels. Due to the positioning of the structures, people who are walking on top of the bridge can see the reflections of those underneath it and vice versa. 

In a press release, Landmarks Founding Director and Curator Andrée Bober remarked, “Sarah Oppenheimer is an inventor who questions everything, drawing scientists and engineers into a journey that is driven by curiosity. We are delighted to celebrate and share this award.” 

Hear Ms. Oppenheimer speak about the installation in this Five Minute Tour submitted to Glasstire by Landmarks.

A photograph of a suspended public art sculpture in a hospital lobby.

“Nest” by Michael Szivos and SOFTlab

In the healthcare category, the San Antonio-based University Health Women’s and Children’s Hospital’s Salud-Arte; Art of Healing Program, received a merit award for the sculpture Nest, by Michael Szivos and SOFTlab. 

A photograph of a suspended public art sculpture in a hospital lobby.

“Nest” by Michael Szivos and SOFTlab

The suspended sculpture measures 8 x 8 x 18 feet and is made of linear pieces of aluminum. These pieces are woven together in a structure resembling a bird nest. Nest is also in conversation with a mural on a nearby glass wall titled Mother Birds by Priscila De Carvalho. Together the two pieces evoke themes of care, life, and hope in the hospital where they are situated.

A photograph of a public art sculpture by Dean Ruck.

“Vernoculus” by Dean Ruck

In the hospitality category, the downtown Houston art bar notsuoH, run by Jim Pirtle, received a merit award for the commissioned work Vernoculus by artist Dean Ruck. The sculpture is a permanent installation that serves as a memorial to Michael Galbreth, an artist and chess player who died in 2019.

The 40 x 10 x 50 foot sculpture consists of 16 galvanized steel roof vent covers (the number was chosen to reference the number of chess pieces on each side of a board) which are lit with dynamic LED lights that flow through various color schemes. The lighting design for the piece is by Houston artist Matt Fries.  

A long pedestrian tunnel features a colorful carpet and wall paneling, making the pedestrian feel like they're underwater.

Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee, “Aquarius Art Tunnel,” at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport

Also in Houston, The Aquarius Art Tunnel, by Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, has received the People’s Choice award from CODAworx. The installation, which includes a floor-to-ceiling mural, lenticular lenses, filtered lighting, custom carpeting, an original soundtrack, and an augmented reality feature, measures 240 feet long by 24 feet wide and 10 feet tall. 

Ms. Mahimtura Folmsbee told Glasstire, “It is an honor to be the first female South Asian artist in the Houston Airports Public Art Program & Collection. However, it is a bigger honor to have won a people’s choice award by CODAworx for a project that speaks to educating and investing in our environment through reminding us about our Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and other U.S. Marine Sanctuaries. The very fact that people care about this work gives me hope and belief that art matters and my work has helped create a difference.”

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