Alien art: 'Just satire' on Park Street
By now you'd be hard-pressed to find a person who hasn't noticed at least one of the ArtInPlace sculptures. But how about the "Art Out Of Place" sculpture?
The nine-foot-tall plywood sculpture, also known as the "Meadowcreek Parkway Alien," has greeted southbound travelers on Park Street since the homeowner erected it earlier this year.
"It's just satire," explains that homeowner, Weldon Showalter. "It's poking fun at the city in a couple of different ways."
Showalter says he formed his protest from the letters P-L-A-C-E to satirize not only the ArtInPlace project, which he says "has cost the city thousands," but the Meadowcreek Parkway, which he says is "never going to happen."
Showalter moved to Charlottesville in 1961 to serve as an ad salesman and promotions manager for the Daily Progress. He founded and ran a local newspaper, The Jefferson Journal, from 1972 to '73 until he "ran out of money and ran out of credit."
Since then, Showalter says he's been in the sign business, which made possible his creation of the alien.
"He's big enough that he's not going to take any guff from anyone," Showalter says of the sculpture. Apparently not even city officials.
Despite having "waited with bated breath" for the city to complain about the alien, Showalter says he hasn't heard a peep, even though his home is located on an "entrance corridor."
"The city would have given me a hard time," he believes, "but they have theirs on entrance corridors, so they can't say anything."
City zoning administrator Barbara Venerus says alien intimidation is not the reason they haven't bothered Showalter.
First of all, she says, Park Street is not an official entrance corridor. But even if it was, Venerus says Showalter's Alien constitutes free speech and "we certainly don't govern that."
Whether the alien stays or goes, Showalter's home will likely always stand out to passersby, thanks to its "peculiar" name, "Montpeculiar."
What's up with that?
"Satire," Showalter says once again, citing Montebello, Monticello, and Montfair as inspirations. "I've always had a satirical nature."
PHOTO BY JEN FARIELLO