“I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty.— President John F. Kennedy, October 1963
The East Aldine Management District celebrates its newly installed giant bust of President John F. Kennedy as a gateway to a community that is pursuing grace and beauty through the arts.
The installation on JFK Boulevard, by famed 96-year-old artist David Adickes, is a project aimed at highlighting efforts by the District and its East Aldine Arts Council to enhance the northeast Harris County community through a variety of artistic and economic endeavors.
Along with District Executive Director Richard Cantu, District Chairman Carlos Silva officiated at the June 29 ribbon-cutting ceremony, almost beside himself with happiness that the project had reached completion.
Silva, also the first chairman of the East Aldine Arts Council, had impulsively asked Adickes in January 2020 whether he’d be interested in having the JFK statue installed in the District. Silva then had to convince the other members of the Arts Council, the board, and the community that his idea was a worthwhile goal.
“Seriously, I have to pinch myself right now to really realize this has come to fruition. This was a dream come true,” Silva said.
He noted that one of JFK’s most famous speeches, at Rice Stadium, where he announced the national space program, had occurred 60 years ago.
In the speech, JFK said the U.S. chose to go to the moon “not because it was easy, but because it was hard.”
Silva said at the dedication event, “This project turned out not to be so easy, but we did it because it was hard.”
“We knew it was important, because we wanted this for our community because we felt this community deserves to have something like this to be proud of,” he added.
The selection of the sculpture is particularly significant because of the former president’s strong belief in the importance of the arts in society.
Though it wasn’t his most famous public address, Kennedy stressed in his last speech the need for public service as well as the need for art in society.
His words have been preserved in a film titled, “The President’s Last Speech.”
At Amherst College in Massachusetts, about three weeks before he was assassinated, Kennedy eulogized poet Robert Frost, who had participated in the president’s 1961 inauguration.
“I look forward to an America which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or statecraft,” Kennedy said. “I look forward to an America which will steadily raise the standards of artistic accomplishment, and which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens.”
“And I look forward to an America which commands respect throughout the world not only for its strength, but for its civilization as well,” Kennedy said.
“I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty.”
After providing overwhelming approval of the JFK bust project, the East Aldine Arts Council has been working on other artistic endeavors to enhance grace, beauty, tourism, economic development and local pride in the community.
The District has funded colorful mini-murals on traffic signal boxes throughout the district, a large mural depicting the history of East Aldine in the lobby of the district’s Town Center, whimsical and artistic signs on the grounds of the center and a labyrinth between the Center’s office building and the BakerRipley East Aldine campus.
The Arts Council is planning more projects to improve the neighborhood and has recently drafted a public opinion survey to determine the community’s desires for future projects.
“This is all part of the bigger picture, and so I am just very proud of the fact that the Arts Council had the vision, and the Management District had the backbone to say, ‘Let’s do it, let’s make this investment.’ Because East Aldine deserves it and this is just the first step of many, many more to come,” Silva said.
Millions of visitors every year will potentially see the JFK bust because the boulevard is a main thoroughfare for Bush Intercontinental Airport.
Named for another late president, the airport handles 41 million passengers per year, making the boulevard a major Houston gateway.
“It’s really a remarkable project, but this is only the beginning,” Silva said. “We intend to grow our art initiatives to make sure that the community continues to feel proud.”
— by Anne Marie Kilday