OKC VeloCity | 'Virga' fills the sky at Bennett Event Center

'Virga' fills the sky at Bennett Event Center

By Laura Nance / Inside OKC / December 11, 2020

Oklahoma is no stranger to weather phenomena and interesting cloud patterns, and the creativity of an internationally recognized sculptor has brought a unique piece of weather-related artwork to life at the State Fairgrounds.

Designed by Venice, California-based Cliff Garten, Virga was recently installed in the lobby of the Bennett Events Center, Oklahoma City’s largest event space and a project of MAPS 3.

Photo courtesy of the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds

Virga are trails of precipitation falling from a cloud that evaporate before reaching the ground. The 72-foot sculpture is inspired by the outline of the Oklahoma River and the clouds in the Oklahoma sky.

Virga has a dramatic impact as soon as you walk into the lobby. It is an exceptional work,” said Randy Marks, public art project manager, Office of Art and Cultural Affairs. “We see Virga as a destination piece and hope people will stop by the Bennett Center just to see it.”

The call for artist submissions specified the piece be interactive, suspend from the ceiling, and was recommended to include a science component.

Garten’s winning design was chosen from four finalists and encompasses movement and energy complete with programmable LED lights, bent aluminum rods and 3-D structures. It also combines elements of meteorology, hydrology, and geology.

Marks said Virga is the most complicated piece Garten has ever done. The complexity of the design required Garten to contract with Kevin Maag of Metal Arts for the fabrication and installation, a common partnership among artists at Garten’s level.

Projects like Virga are made possible thanks to the City of Oklahoma City’s 1% for Art ordinance. Adopted by the City Council in 2009, one percent of the construction cost of any building, facility, trail or park built by the city goes to fund public art. The process is facilitated by the City’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs and evaluated and recommended by the City’s Arts Commission.

“Public artwork shows we care about our city,” added Marks. “It enhances the experience of public life and seems to give citizens greater pride and ownership.”


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