After a contentious history, the clouds have lifted over the George R. Brown Convention Center. Houston artist Ed Wilson’s Soaring In The Clouds, a 67-foot-high mobile of shiny metal clouds and cutout birds commissioned for the facility's atrium, was unveiled last week as part of Houston First's $175 million project to spruce up the area before Super Bowl LI early next year.
The large-scale sculpture was the center of controversy last year after the Houston Arts Alliance rescinded Wilson's commission to create the $830,000 project, alleging it had been awarded prematurely, amid documents that revealed that some members of the selection committee believed that Wilson did not have enough of a national reputation to receive the commission.
Director of civic art and design Matthew Lennon, who is a friend of Wilson, resigned in protest. The selection process was reopened and the project got back on track when Wilson was awarded the commission once again.
The sculpture is funded through the city's percent-for-art program, which sets aside 1.75 percent of eligible city capitol improvement project funds for art. The Houston Arts Alliance approves and develops art projects for Houston airports and city-owned buildings, including the convention center and other downtown landmarks managed by Houston First Corporation.
Another large sculpture, Wings Over Water by Joe O'Connell + Creative Machines, will be installed above the Fountain of the Americas, outside the convention center, in January. And eight smaller works by Houston artists are scheduled to be installed around the convention center before Super Bowl weekend in early February.
The area is expected to be a focal point of Super Bowl activities, with a major Marriott Marquis Hotel and several new restaurants along an area dubbed Avenida Houston scheduled to open in the coming weeks.