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Sculptor Aaron P. Hussey’s final design for the Crossroads sculpture in San Marcos honoring Lyndon B. Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr takes direction from a 1966 photograph of the two men in the White House’s Oval Office. These renderings show the sculpture during day, top, and at night. ILLUSTRATIONS by AARON P. HUSSEY

by BRAD ROLLINS

Volunteers unveiled the final design last week of a sculpture honoring Lyndon B. Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr. planned for the intersection of streets that bear the names of the two historical figures.

A detail rendering of Hussey’s Crossroads sculpture shows how an image of the two men and virtues associated with their leadership will be cast as shadows on the floor of the memorial. ILLUSTRATION by AARON P. HUSSEY


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The winning design by Baton Rouge, La.-based artist Aaron P. Hussey is inspired by a black-and-white photograph taken by White House photographer Yoichi R. Okamoto of Johnson and King leaning toward each other, deep in conversation, during a May 1966 meeting in the Oval Office. The previous year, Johnson had signed the Voting Rights of 1965 which prohibited literacy tests and other devices used to discourage black people from voting. That was a followup to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which Johnson signed in King’s presence after bulldozing the landmark legislation through a conservative U.S. Congress.

Hussey’s design features two curved benches, facing each other in an oval footprint, under a canopy etched with a silhouetted image of King and Johnson based on Okamoto’s photo. When the sun is shining, the design will cast a shadow of the Johnson-King image on the sitting area below or on the surrounding plaza, depending on the time of day.

“The challenge was: How do you make something in 248 square feet that represents these two men with dignity,” said Diane McCabe, a leader of the LBJ/MLK Memorial Crossroads Project Committee appointed by the San Marcos City Council to see the project through. Hussey’s design meets that challenge, McCabe said.

The MLK/LBJ memorial idea came to life in 2008 during Texas State University’s celebration of the 100th year anniversary of its most famous alumni’s birthday. In 2009, the Hays County Commissioners court donated the triangle-shaped parcel of land to the city of San Marcos, provided the city build the sculpture within five years.

The MLK-LBJ intersection two blocks south of the downtown square is thought to be the only place in the United States where streets named for the two men intersect each other.

The intersection is also something of a crossroads, McCabe said, of the city’s diverse history, sitting between traditionally black, Latino and white neighborhoods. MLK Drive runs west through historically black Dunbar neighborhood and LBJ runs south through predominately Latino areas. MLK Drive is home to the Calaboose African American History Museum and LBJ Drive is home to the Centro Cultural Hispano de San Marcos,

In June 2010, the San Marcos Arts Commission awarded a $100,000 grant to the Crossroads committee to pay for commissioning the sculpture; the group began soliciting artists’ design proposals early last year. Hussey’s design was chosen from 54 submittals, beating out two other finalists, CoLAB Studios of Tempe, Ariz. and Joseph O’Connel and Blessing Hancock of Tuscon, Ariz.

Presented the winning entry during their regular meeting last week, city council members said they liked the sculpture renderings, clearing the way for city staff to negotiate a contract with Hussey.

In addition to the $100,000 arts commission grant, which was funded in a previous budget, the city will need to appropriate $275,000 in the upcoming budget year’s Capital Improvement Program to bury electric lines at the intersection and relocate a water line that supplies fire hydrants.

See the other Crossroads sculpture finalists:

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13 thoughts on “LBJ, MLK sculpture design unveiled

  1. $375,000 to put an unnecessary sculpture in?? You’ve got to be kidding me. There are so many other things the city’s money could go towards instead. Street repair, bike lanes, etc. Why are they spending so much on this?

  2. I wouldn’t call it unnecessary as the city should celebrate more of its national history and prominence in the sphere of civil rights. I just wish it was in a better location instead of on what is basically a dead corner. Yes, I know its there because of the street names but in my opinion it should be in a much more prominent location that would be seen by a greater number of individuals including city visitors.

  3. I love the design! The constantly changing shadow driven by the cosmos, truly a solar-powered work of art. And the site will only get better, with all the plans for that area of town. (What do the squares with numbers surrounding the two men mean?)

  4. It’s hard to judge how big this thing is based on the photos. Some information regarding its dimensions would be nice.

    At any rate, I’d like to see more public art installations like this in San Marcos.

  5. Betsy – if you look closely, the letters actually spell things like “HOPE,” “OPPORTUNITY,” “COMPROMISE,” and “DIGNITY.”

  6. I like how it’s interactive, invites dialogue and uses the time of day to alter the experience! I’m pleasantly surprised by this selection.

    This is an area whose use in the future should improve partially thanks to this investment. Having such a public form of expression in the location will help transform how people relate to this space over time…

  7. LK,

    The article mentions a figure of 248 square feet – or a shade less than 16 x 16.

  8. Dano – yes, I see that the piece of land the sculpture will be on is 248 square feet, but I’m curious about how tall the sculpture is going to be, etc.

  9. The work will be approximately 12 feet high by 16 feet wide and 8 feet deep.

  10. They better hurry up and put that piece up. Lil birdie told me that the Hays County Just-us Center has been purchased bi none other than Darren Casey, who’s own montrosity will overshadow this important piece of Art. Truly a conundrum of sorts.

:)