The Richmond Ambulance Authority headquarters building is proud to be a host location for three exceptional public art pieces, as part of the city’s Percent-for-Art program. In 1997, Richmond City Council mandated that one percent from a city building’s construction budget be spent on original artwork to enhance public buildings. RAA benefited from this program when the city built its headquarters in 1998.
The first piece you see as you come up to the building is called “Cradle”, created by Richmond artist Allan Rosenbaum. “Cradle” is a metaphor for caring hands supporting the City. Mr. Rosenbaum became involved with the project following a national call for proposals by the city Arts Commission in 1998. His original proposal was for a ceramic relief mural to be placed inside the building. After the Arts Commission reviewed the proposal they asked that it be changed to become an exterior piece. He was excited to match a “metaphoric idea to the mission of an organization.” Mr. Rosenbaum normally does colorful, whimsical ceramic pieces, often featuring parts of the human body attached to inanimate objects. To symbolize the relationship of the Richmond Ambulance Authority to the city, he chose to do a monochromatic piece made of bronze to stand up to the weather and it is the largest sculpture he has ever done.
The process for making “Cradle” began in 1999 and was completed the following year. The piece is approximately 800 pounds and is anchored to its concrete base with four posts. The process included making three models—first clay, then rubber, and finally wax. The wax model was filled in with bronze at a foundry. To complete this “massive” piece, the foundry had to create 35 pieces, and then weld each piece together like a puzzle.
The building lobby motif was designed around the wall mural sculpture, created by Richmond artist Lee Hazelgrove. He submitted a proposal for the mural inspired by his own experience with EMS after an injury with a lawn mower when he was 20. His impression of the crew was “strength, but comfort” and he felt they worked as a solid, integrated team to care for him. He wanted to bring this feeling to the mural for RAA, using individual pieces to represent parts of a team, repeated patterns to show overall strength, and shades of blues and greens for comfort. Mr. Hazelgrove also wanted to keep the feel of the building, which outside “has a post modern reference, repeated patterns, and a layered look.” He felt the lobby was a perfect backdrop for his piece “…as an artist, it’s a wonderful space.”
The third piece is a painting, hung outside of the RAA Communications Center, created by New York artist Gail Nathan. Ms. Nathan had been a visiting professor at Virginia Commonwealth University and served on the Richmond Public Arts Commission in the 1990’s. After leaving the area, she saw a Request for Proposals advertised for art for the RAA building and submitted a watercolor of her proposed painting. Her idea was commissioned and she spent two months painting the five foot by six foot piece, which features a rescue from the scene of a fire. Ms. Nathan said she based the painting on a photograph she saw in the newspaper of rescue workers leading victims away from a flood and was inspired by the striking imagery of the “close momentary connection between strangers and the deep human emotion” in that brief contact between the rescuer and the victim. She worked the background of the painting by laying the canvas flat on the floor and pouring acrylic paint colors into each other to get the intense feeling of the fire. She finished the top layer more traditionally in oil paint. The frame was designed by Ms. Nathan and made by a local Shockoe Bottom frame company. Ms. Nathan also has a larger painting on display the Richmond Police Department 2nd Precinct.