Artist Tom Otterness for Philadelphia’s Aviator Park

Artist Tom Otterness for Philadelphia’s Aviator Park

Peaceable Kingdom

A proposal by artist Tom Otterness
for Aviator Park, Logan Square

With the support of the William Penn Foundation, the Fairmount Park Art Association has been working with the internationally acclaimed artist Tom Otterness on the design of a major new public art project consisting of an ensemble of about 30 family-friendly bronze sculptures for Aviator Park in Logan Square. The project was stimulated by the Center City District’s initiative to revitalize Aviator Park and transform the Square and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway into more of a pedestrian–friendly cultural area. The public art project, unique to Philadelphia, will animate the park and respond to the nearby cultural institutions on the Square and the Parkway.

Artist Tom Otterness stands with a mock up of "Peacable Kingdom"
Artist Tom Otterness. Photo © Association for Public Art.

In the tradition of Billy in Rittenhouse Square, Otterness’ sculptures are planned to attract the attention and affection of children and adults, residents and visitors alike. The work will be a gift to the children of Philadelphia for generations to come. There has been considerable enthusiasm for this project, and we look forward to Peaceable Kingdom joining the other sculptural masterworks along the Parkway.

The Process

The Art Association and the artist worked with the Center City District and the Fairmount Park Commission staff. Otterness carried out his research at the nearby institutions, while also developing ideas in the studio. Once renovations to the park were completed, the artist worked directly on site, observing pedestrian traffic flow and use, and looking at issues of scale and context by placing cardboard “mock-ups” throughput the park. Representatives from the nearby institutions and other stakeholders visited the artist on site to view and discuss the work in progress. Otterness’ plan has already captured the attention of passersby, especially children, and we can easily imagine that the sculpture will make the park a destination, as well as a walk-through environment.

About the Artist

Tom Otterness is a gifted and internationally recognized artist whose public works have brought great critical acclaim and public enthusiasm. He is known for his witty and warm ensembles of bronze sculptures, which typically reflect their social and cultural surroundings. Otterness’ ability to negotiate and collaborate has led to the successful completion of numerous large-scale public commissions throughout the world, including a major installation at New York’s Battery Park City, considered one of New York’s favorite sculpture gardens.

Peaceable Kingdom

The artist’s challenge was to determine a conceptual framework to bring together the disparate content suggested by the surrounding institutions and the existing war memorials. Otterness settled on the theme of the Peaceable Kingdom, inspired by the paintings of Edward Hicks, a native Pennsylvanian and Quaker. Otterness’ Peaceable Kingdom expresses ideas of peace, reconciliation, and the potency of childhood innocence. The artist was attracted to Hicks’ “internal, utopian logic, wherein all of the conflicts and opposites in the world are peaceably resolved.” Hicks created more than 60 versions of the painting, and two are in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The paintings depict a verse from the Book of Isaiah: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.” Many of these paintings also depict the legendary treaty between William Penn and the Lenape and the founding of Pennsylvania.

The sculpture’s central motif ensemble will be situated on two “islands” facing Logan Square depicting an animal group and the legendary treaty between William Penn and the Lenape.

The sculpture’s central motif ensemble will be situated on two “islands” facing Logan Square depicting an animal group and the legendary treaty between William Penn and the Lenape. Framing the entrance to the Park at 20th and Race, a little child leads the way into the park with an arm around a lion. Airplanes are placed at the entry to the gilded Aero Memorial, and a huge raven faces the Free Library, eyeing a portrait of Edgar Allen Poe. Near the All Wars Memorial, the artist pays tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen. Related sculptural elements will be placed on columns at the entrances to the Park.

Peaceable Kingdom received Park Commission approval in April 2008, and was featured on the front page of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The project received Art Commission approval in June 2008.

Small scale model of the proposed "Peaceable Kingdom" by artist Tom Otterness
Small scale model of the proposed Peaceable Kingdom by artist Tom Otterness. Photo © Association for Public Art.

Related Artworks




by Albert Laessle (1877 - 1954)

Rittenhouse Square, Walnut Street between 18th and 19th Streets

Inspired by and rendered after a family goat, this sculpture was one of several animals that Albert Laessle created.

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