Client: Midlothian Economic Development
Location: Midlothian, TX, United States
Completion date: 2016
Artwork budget: $275,000
Brad Oldham Sculpture
Brad Oldham Sculpture
Midlothian proudly calls itself a collaborative community, one in which residents and business interests have worked together to achieve success. This unique spirit of collaboration is represented in “Combination,” a site-specific sculpture by Brad Oldham and Christy Coltrin. The steel-and-concrete 31-foot-tall piece is the first public artwork for this small Texas town. “Combination” serves two purposes. First, it creates a focal point – a visual landmark piece – around which residents and visitors can gather. Second, the piece represents the collaborative strength of the Midlothian community in the story behind the sculpture and the locally produced materials.
Functionally, the public art experience links the Midlothian Convention Center campus to the newly built hotel. For its first sculpture, the town wanted to reframe the initial impressions of visitors and new residents. Because Midlothian is located on the state’s largest shale escarpment, there are several large factories transforming the natural rock into cement. Located 30 miles south of Dallas, with prime access to highways, rail and airport, Midlothian is a great location for other manufacturing too. As they pass through, drivers see the industrial factories. Leading international steel producer, Gerdau, has been located in Midlothian for generations. When Brad and Christy toured the factories, they learned that through the closed-loop production, these businesses recycle and maintain high environmental standards. The loop imagery and locally produced materials are critical to telling the town’s story. The other core story point revolves around the residents and how they work together in keeping their unique small town values, great schools, and high-quality housing while attracting international business opportunities and jobs. The two twisted steel beams are reminiscent of the old-time nail puzzle where you must work the pieces together with intellect and finesse to find the solution.
The artists worked closely with the town’s economic development board and a volunteer business committee to set up factory tours, conduct interviews, and learn about Midlothian’s history. Because writing is such a strong component of Christy’s creative process, she worked with a local high school journalism class on writing about their hometown. Brad shared his engineering documents and construction drawings with the high school engineering teachers and students, who also saw first hand how Brad was able to “bend” industrial steel beams that are designed to hold shape in all situations. The artists were part of the fundraising team that approached local businesses to donate materials and money. The installation team was comprised of local talent under Brad’s direction. The community dedication event was much more than simply the Mayor and chamber members cutting a ribbon. The high school students spoke about what they had learned about their community through the making of “Combination.” Because the people in Midlothian are what tips the scales in this community, there is a sculpture of a man named Joe at the base of “Combination.” He is tightening the final bolt to show that everything made in Midlothian has a human touch and pride.
Surrounding “Combination” there are 80 cast concrete blocks, 20 inches tall by 24 inches wide, with twenty openings every fifth space to create one hundred spaces surrounding the sculpture. The 18th and 88th blocks are cast as triangles and stained a contrasting color to highlight the years during which Midlothian was founded and incorporated. Finally, a new slogan, “We Are Midlothian,” was poured into place, within the seating circle, which consists of decomposed granite. The artist plaque was designed as a manhole cover, showing the artwork in 2D format, and has become a favorite t-shirt print in Midlothian.