Love of Baseball Inspires Professor’s Installation at Nationals Park

Posted: March 25, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Walter Kravitz
Walter Kravitz

One of Walter Kravitz’s earliest baseball memories is going to Comiskey Park as a young boy with his father to watch the Chicago White Sox play. In his latest art commission, Kravitz combines his love for the game with his passion for large-scale creative works in “The Ball Game.”

The artwork will hang permanently, suspended between home plate and first base on the main concourse, at Washington Nationals Ballpark. A dedication ceremony for the installation of Kravitz’s work, as well as those of other artists, will take place on Wednesday, April 8, at 11 a.m. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Kravitz, professor in the Department of Art and Visual Technology (AVT), was granted this commission by the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities as part of the DC Creates Public Art program. “The Ball Game” has been in the works for nearly 18 months.

Two views of “The Ball Game,” above and below.
Images courtesy of Walter Kravitz

“The idea of baseball is not focused just on various large cities across the country, because it is played everywhere,” says Kravitz. “The installation is meant to tell the story of baseball in a comic way, and I hope that as fans enter Nationals Ballpark and see the piece, they will have the opportunity to reminisce about their love of the game.”

With the help of Mason students and AVT majors Angela Douglas and John Uthoff, as well as other engineers and assistants, most of the work for the installation took place at Kravitz’s art studio in Washington, D.C. The project began as an idea on paper and evolved into a small scale model.

The finished project is composed of four suspended rotating structures from which 42 spray-painted baseball figures hang in action. The figures represent baseball players in various exaggerated motions such as pitching, sliding or running the bases. Made from a material called polycarbonate and painted with a pigment called acrylic urethane, Kravitz used mostly primary and secondary colors, mixed in with some black and white.

The figures themselves are 6 to 7 feet in height and hang from a thin steel cable attached to a rim or armature that rotates to create a carousel effect. According to Kravitz, it was important that the figures come close to being life size because it makes the experience more dynamic for the viewer.

Interior and exterior light sources will illuminate the figures from all angles without throwing light into the visitors’ eyes.

“The colors of the uniforms are brighter and more exaggerated than in the major leagues,” says Kravtiz. “While I deliberately created variations of uniforms, I felt that I had to include the colors of certain teams such as the Washington Nationals and the New York Yankees.”

To accompany the rotating figures, Jim Carroll, professor of jazz studies in the Music Department, put together various instrumental renditions of the song “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” that will repeat every two minutes. Kravitz hopes that if the Nationals are pleased with the installation, they will play the song over the sound system during the seventh-inning stretch of some of the games.

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