"The Family"

First piece of Woodlands art represents family in nature

In the early stages of The Woodlands' development in the early1970s, before there was an ice skating rink at The Wharf or a Lighting of the Doves ceremony, the community's planners wanted to establish a sense of identity to motorists entering the community.

At the time, their idea was a novel one when it came to community planning: humans and the natural environment living as one.

That idea was also one they wanted to portray stylistically at The Woodlands' gateway. The early developers contacted Charles Pebworth, a Texas-based artist known for his metal and wood sculptures, watercolors and landscapes.

"He was asked to do something that was indicative of what The Woodlands was doing with the land they had acquired," said Tony Motto, Woodlands Art Tours director. "The whole premise of The Woodlands was not to come in and bulldoze all the trees, and blend naturally with the environment."

Pebworth created a 40-foot tall by 15-foot wide by 15-foot long welded metal sculpture entitled "The Family," located at the southwest corner of the Woodlands Parkway entrance to The Woodlands. The sculpture was unveiled in 1974, the same year The Woodlands opened.

Motto said the piece was designed to represent precisely what The Woodlands' developers were trying to accomplish within the community: a family living within nature.

"It is very open-air," he said. "It is very specifically a family; it does have some head shapes."

One of the key concepts of the piece, he said, are the 10-inch-by-10-inch posts that support the work.

"When you look at the sculpture, it has these loops," he said. "And underneath these loops are these posts driven into the ground about 8 feet. When you look at it, it looks like those loops are barely touching the ground. That represents the family making a very little footprint on the whole environment."

Pebworth created the sculpture with the type of steel used in the construction of rail roads—one that retains its structural integrity in all weather environments and, over time, forms a coat of rust that protects the steel.

However, in recent years, Motto said, "The Family" was re-painted a shade of dark brown, which was not Pebworth's intention.

"He was pretty upset," Motto said. "The idea was to stay natural as much as possible."

As The Woodlands has grown to a community of 100,000 in 2012, up from 300 in 1974, so too has its collection of public art. Today, more than 50 works of public art are on display throughout The Woodlands, and Motto said "The Family" has perhaps lost its distinction.

He said works such as "The Dreamer" at Woodlands Parkway and South Panther Creek Drive, and "The Rise of Midgard Serpent"— or better known as "The Dragon"—in Lake Woodlands, have become more well known.

"The Family", By Charles Pebworth, Unveiled 1974, 40 feet tall, 15 wide, 15–long, Woodlands Parkway and I-45


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