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Coffield Park to get sculpture playground, basketball court

April 5th, 2012 under Top Stories

By ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN

MARFA – Marfa’s Coffield Park will see some big improvements this year. The City of Marfa Parks and Recreation Development Corporation has approved two large-scale projects that parks and recreation board members hope will generate more public park use.

One project is a basketball court and the other is a 50-foot modernist sculpture with a playground at its base.

Fieldwork Marfa, an international research program that offers residencies to artists from the United States and abroad, proposed this project to the parks board. French artist Wilfrid Almendra is the designer and sculptor.

Fieldwork Marfa Coordinator Valerie Breuvart Culbertson said that while this is a work of art, it is specifically aimed to also be a public playground for children.

The sculpture, Monument for Reconstruction, is a work where the artist confronts the utopian forms of the project, New Babylon, by the Dutch artist Constant Nieuwenhuys, who constructed a similar project, also a dual sculpture and playground, in Rotterdam in 1955.

Artist’s image of the sculpture and playground at Coffield Park.

Almendra states in the design documents that his project is a reactivation of the original sculpture that would take the same form and mimic the original one, which no longer exists in the Netherlands.

Speaking on behalf of the artist, who is abroad securing funding for the project, Breuvart Culbertson said that Almendra has been studying Nieuwenhuys for quite some time and upon arriving in Marfa had several ideas to create this sculpture to scale.

“When he came to Marfa, the location was ideal to welcome the structure. There is also a need in Marfa for more playground equipment,” Breuvart Culbertson said.

“He liked the idea of having this monument in a very country setting as opposed to an urban one.”

Breuvart Culbertson said that there is a relationship in terms of the legacy of Donald Judd, in that at first glance the sculpture looks Judd-esque, though Almendra’s background is far removed from that of Judd.

Breuvart Culbertson explained that the sculpture will stand at nearly 50 feet tall and be built using material used in standard American suburban architecture.

This project will come to Marfa at no cost to the city. Breuvart Culbertson said that the nearly $60,000 project will be funded through private donors from the U.S. and France, French foundations and even the French Ministry of Culture. Local builders and welders would also be asked to help construct the sculpture.

“It’s a smart way to go about it,” Parks and Recreation board member and city councilman David Beebe said, “If someone comes with a project, not asking for money and doing due diligence and incorporates something we want like a playground.”

“It’s something that is different with a historical basis and gives tourists and locals something to do,” City Administrator Jim Mustard said.

Parks and Recreation board member and Marfa Mayor Dan Dunlap wanted to stress that there would be safety barriers in place to keep children from falling 50-feet.

Indeed, the artist explains that the upper part of the sculpture would not be accessible, with a protections system consisting of a series of plates and wires that would prevent children from climbing to the top.

Breuvart Culbertson said that this would be a permanent or indefinite sculpture, with the prospect of adding some new furniture on the site.

A model and small exhibit of the project are on view at the Casner Room at city hall for the public to see. Breuvart Culbertson offered to answer any questions or concerns from the public and provided her email address: vbreuvart@gmail.com. Questions and comments can also be directed to city hall.

The other project at Coffield park is a basketball court.

“It’s happening,” Beebe said this week. Beebe explained that the new court would be located where an old skate ramp and recycling bins once stood.

The regulation size court will be fenced, have quality lighting, and have a nice textured surface.

“It’s going to be really nice,” said Beebe.

Dunlap said that the project would ultimately cost nearly $90,000, which the parks board has budgeted. He said that as soon as some electrical service lines are removed, which should take place next week, the groundwork can begin to take shape.

“Clearly we need a basketball court in town,” Beebe said, “This is going to be top quality. It fits into the game plan of Coffield Park being a sports park,” he said referring to the two existing baseball and softball diamonds.

Beebe also noted that plans are being discussed to build new restrooms and a new concession stand.

“We’re working hard to spend our funds on stuff that fits in the master plan to make people use the parks now,” said Beebe.

In related news, the MAC building swimming pool should be open for summer use with a fancy new façade.

Mustard said that the project is nearing the point where the pool will be filled with water. Project Graduation at the Marfa High School has been approved to use the MAC building for their end-of-the-year lock-in, and Mustard hopes to have the pool ready for them.

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