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Public Art

Public Art

Bold and beautiful, the art that adorns the public spaces throughout Arlington are real showstoppers. You can’t miss them.

Human in scale and global in vision, more than 70 permanent public artworks make Arlington an artistic superstar. This internationally renowned collection of public art —  reflecting the community's values, diverse traditions and civic pride — has been recognized with seven Public Art Network Awards (PAN) from Americans for the Arts.

Bold and beautiful, inspired and innovative, the works adorn sidewalks, buildings, Metro stations, green spaces and courtyards at every turn. They were commissioned as part of county capital improvement projects, sponsored by developers or initiated by communities through neighborhood planning efforts.

It all began in 1979 with the commission of Nancy Holt’s acclaimed Dark Star Park in Rosslyn, which masterfully combines landscape architecture, sculpture and astronomy to create Arlington’s own little Stonehenge.

Dark Star Park public installation by Nancy Holt at 1655 Fort Myer Dr.
Dark Star Park, photo by Ron Cogswell

Today, large-scale sculptures, murals, multimedia constructions and art installations are scattered throughout the county’s neighborhoods. You’ll find public art that you can splash in and play on, that you can drive on or alongside of, that you can walk under or through. The pieces use dozens of different types of materials — from asphalt to zinc.

Take Christian Moeller’s Quill in Rosslyn, an arrangement of nearly 20,000 3 ¼-inch reflective discs arranged in a field of slotted aluminum panels. By day, the abstracted image appears to be in motion in changing shades of pearlescent green. At night, it glows with light charged during the daytime.

Talk about fashion-forward. In Dressed Up and Pinned, Vivian Beer fuses the forms of fashion with the materials of automotive design. Conceived as a bench, the massive sculpture is shaped like a surreal stiletto high heel that morphs into drapery wrapping around the façade of 2401 Wilson Boulevard. It’s tailor-made for taking dramatic selfies. You can find it at the Hyatt Place Arlington/Courthouse Plaza.

Dressed Up And Pinned By Vivian Beer
Dressed Up And Pinned By Vivian Beer

At the Route 50 Interchange at Courthouse Road and 10th Street in the Courthouse neighborhood, artist Vicki Scuri designed a complex multifaceted piece called Arlington Boulevard. Long retaining walls flanking Route 50 bear richly textured concrete panels that reference the native redbud tree. Intersecting them along both sides of two bridges that cross Route 50 are patterned metal screens backlit by programmable LED lights that slowly change hues over a 15-minute period. They make for an eye-catching multicolored embellishment for motorists driving under the bridges.

Wave Arbor is a skillful play on wind and light. It’s a two-part kinetic wind-activated sculpture designed by Douglas Hollis for Long Bridge Park in Crystal City. Each structure supports 22 kinetic wing-like elements that move in response to the wind and allow light to pass through them, creating shadows below. Lights at the end of each “wing” register the motion of the wind at night. 

Arlington Public Art has also hosted more than 40 temporary public art projects since 1987 and continues to showcase interpretative projects, temporary works, exhibitions and more.

Over the next three years, the program expects to complete another dozen or so permanent works by a diverse range of the most respected artists in the field today, including Walter Hood, Mark Reigelman, Nekisha Durrett, Cliff Garten, Vicki Scuri, Spencer Finch and Olalekan Jeyifous.

How to Visit

You can take a self-guided walking tour of 14 fascinating works within just one square mile in Rosslyn.