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  • Irene Bagach

Artist Brendan Murphy on His Signature Addition to Minute Maid Park

The Houston Astros unveil a new spaceman sculpture Monday at Minute Maid Park from artist Brendan Murphy.

This originally appeared in Sports Illustrated.

On Monday, the Houston Astros welcome a new addition to Minute Maid Park from the creative mind of Brendan Murphy. A 13-foot spaceman sculpture will be installed in the stadium just before the Astros' three-game series with the Boston Red Sox.

About two years ago, Murphy was commissioned to create a spaceman sculpture for a resort in Antigua. The sculpture caught the eye of Brazilian artist Romero Britto who pitched an idea to Murphy of traveling with him to art shows.

Murphy's journey to the Astros' door started there as he and Britto attended a dinner where Houston resident David Capobianco was. Capobianco and Murphy were both enrolled at the same high school in Rhode Island growing up.

Capobianco invited Murphy to a gathering at his Houston home this past year. Astros owner Jim Crane was among those in attendance, and after meeting Murphy, Crane floated the idea of adding one of the spacemen sculptures to Minute Maid Park.

"[Crane] is a wonderful guy," Murphy said. "And he has a vision to do something really special that I don't think other owners share. Jim really takes those little things seriously and knows the value of it. And really, I thought it was an extraordinary vision on his part as an owner."

In the last year, Murphy and Crane have planned the spaceman sculpture. Murphy believed his previous work was something Crane wanted in the "Juice Box."

"I'm in the wow business," Murphy said. "I make stuff that if it works, it has a real impact. And my business is doing stuff that really brings people into the room."

Walking the concourse of Minute Maid Park to draw inspiration to the recent history and success of the Astros, Murphy believed he had to create the sculpture the best way he knew, but he also recognized the piece needed to be connected to the franchise.

"It behooves me to make the work the way it should be made," Murphy said. "But you also want your collector to be proud of it, and you want it to have an impact. So you can't just be living in a hole and hoping it goes well."

Including the team's colors was an easy aspect, but Murphy worked over the last few months with the Astros marketing department to incorporate words and phrases that pertain to the Astros' "Golden Age," even noting he feels like a "bit of an expert" on the franchise now.

The spaceman abstracts names, awards and phrases from the last 15 years of Houston's history. With every glance, Murphy hopes fans find a new connection to the team and to the city of Houston.

In addition to the sculpture being welcomed to Minute Maid Park, Murphy will be throwing out the first pitch prior to Monday's evening contest. As a former professional athlete, too, Murphy has prepared for his duties off the rubber and even had a friend fly in to see his two-week progressions.

"They don't believe me that I keep telling them I'm not throwing fast at all," Murphy chuckled. "You'd be surprised when you get older, it's not that easy. You lose the velocity, but my goal is to throw a strike right down the middle."

But as Murphy prepares for Monday's festivities, he also mentioned the abbreviated journey to his switch to full-time art production. After the September 11 attacks in New York City, the then 30-year-old stepped away from Wall Street to focus primarily on his art work.

"I think it's a part of life's journey," Murphy said. "I knew that I didn't fit in ... I had to come to terms that I was a creative person. That was the first step, and then I was painting as a hobby so I just started there."

Murphy doesn't recommend his path to anyone. He reminisced on the struggles and fears of making a living, which became obstacles in his goal to better himself as an artist. Yet 20 years later, he's created items he described as "capsule-type pieces."

"I outwork everybody in my business," Murphy said. "That's the one thing I know what I lack in talent, skill and technique, I just outwork everybody ... Now, it's really fun because people understand that I have the ability to make anything of any size or any kind."

With the changing industry, more materials have become weather resistant while history shows many sculpture and busts made of bronze. Murphy 3D designs his art work on his computer before constructing the mold with his hands, giving him more dynamic pieces.

These have since paved more paths for Murphy — who has already drawn interest from other professional sports owners.

"I think Jim seems to be a real visionary," Murphy said. "I hope he sets the pace in a way and [other owners] follow his lead. Because the whole sports sculpture stuff should change; it's really old."

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