Arlington is Aglow With Public Art...Seriously!

​When most people think of public art, they think of formidable war heroes on horsesback, or delicate statues of cherubs and angels.

Hit the pavement and check out some art!

Arlington's public art collection has drawn international attention for its decidedly more adventurous and contemporary take on the genre. Here you'll find public art that you can splash in and play on. In the case of the two latest additions you can even drive on it or use it to charge your cell phone: They're electric (or rather LED)!

"Arlington Boulevard" - Part of a major, 10-year redeux of the critical Route 50 Interchange at Courthouse Road and 10th Street, artist Vicki Scuri designed retaining walls featuring richly-textured concrete panels referencing the native red bud tree. All four sides of the two bridges crossing Route 50 feature patterned metal screens backlit by programmable LED lights that slowly change hues over a 15 minute period. It almost makes you wish for a traffic jam (almost)!

"Quill"  - Okay, so maybe you can't charge your cell phone on it directly, but the end result is the same. Artist Christian Moeller has created a new perimeter enhancement for the Dominion Virginia Power Substation in Rosslyn as part of Monday Properties’ 1812 N. Moore Street project. Moeller’s design spans the Nash Street façade with additional treatments visible on N. Moore Street. The design was inspired by the successful return of the bald eagle to nesting along the banks of the Potomac River after years of being threatened with extinction. It is rendered in a pattern created by the arrangement of nearly 20,000 3 ¼” reflective discs arranged in a field of slotted aluminum panels. By day, the abstracted image appears to the viewer in motion in changing shades of pearlescent green.  At night, glows with light charged during the daytime, enhanced by the reflected light of passing cars and ambient traffic lights. Check out the video below!

Today, Arlington is home to more than sixty such permanent public art projects. So...why? How? The projects coordinated by the office of Arlington Public Art are directly commissioned to be integrated into various County capital improvement projects, commissioned by developers as part of the site plan process, and initiated by community groups, including Arlington's three business improvement districts. Arlington's history of developer-funded public art projects stemming from a County planning objectives began in 1979 with the commission of Nancy Holt's Dark Star Park in Rosslyn. In 2000, the County Board approved a Public Art Policy and, in 2004, adopted a Public Art Master Plan. We have hosted more than forty temporary public art projects since 1987 and continue to partner with local arts organizations, artists and community organizations to develop, launch, and present interpretative projects, temporary works, exhibitions and more. 

Translation: Arlington is a really cool place to walk, jog and drive around in. So hit the pavement and check out some art! Check out these self-guided tour options that will light the way for you!

Author: Jim Byers