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What’s Up With: The Balance Statue

In the triangle park in the middle of 13th Street, Tennessee and Constitution Avenues NE (across from Maury Elementary School) there is a statue shaped like an exclamation point that begs a question.

“Balance” is a work of public sculpture by Marchi Billig that was dedicated on Dec. 15, 2002. The bronze sculpture stands 15 feet high and depicts a girl holding a boy upside down on her upstretched hands. Perched on one of the boy’s toes is a top hat; on the hat stands a cat.

‘Balance’ stands in the triangle park created by the intersection of Tennessee and Constitution Avenueswith 13th Street NE, near Maury Elementary School (1250 Constitution Ave. NE).

The dedication ceremony included numerous luminaries, such as then-Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells. But the stars of the show were Alex Foxx, Vice President of Student Government at Maury (who gave a speech on “Fostering the Spirit of Community”) and Johnathan Simms, a member of the same class who read a poem written specially for the occasion.

The statue’s path to the triangle park began in 2001, when the North Lincoln Park Neighborhood Association (NLPNA) applied for a grant from the DC Commission on Arts and Humanities to fund public art. Meetings took place over the next year to select the site and to collect input on the concept. Four artists attended meetings to hear resident’s’ feelings about the neighborhood as community and how they thought art could be used to convey these sentiments. Each created a proposal to embody that vision.

Elizabeth Nelson, then the Chair of the LPNA, said the proposal really spoke to the association as they made their choice. “It seemed like a good reflection of the neighborhood at the time, and specifically, the process [of choosing art],” she said. “There were a lot of points of view, and we came close to getting nothing,” Nelson said. But compromise —balance— prevailed in the choice of Bilig’s work.

The sculptor, Bilig, described the children in the sculpture as “supporting and challenging each other,” a symbol of the “community’s striving to grow and work together.” The top hat is a “reminder of North Lincoln Park’s namesake” and the cat “provides a touch of humor which always helps in reaching a goal.”

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