Inviting artists to play a major role in designing and enhancing the civic realm shouldn’t be the byproduct of a sudden cultural shift brought on by a pandemic. It can’t be an afterthought or a quick fix to creating a unique place that will attract business and residents. And if you ask Arlington’s Public Art Director Angela Anderson Adams, a bold art plan for public art in a community might take nearly 40 years of investment and big visioning.
Within its 26.2 square miles, there are now 77 art works in Arlington’s permanent public art collection, a collection that formally began in 1984 with Nancy Holt’s Dark Star Park in Rosslyn. Bold from the start, Holt asked to design the entire park site rather than solely a sculpture within the park, including a Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) right of way median.
So what does Arlington consider public art? And why is it so important? It can refer to a lot of things depending on where you are, but the vision for the County’s Public Art Program relies on the foundation of the Arlington County Board adopted Policy and Master Plan that prioritize an integrated approach to public art at the beginning of a project. From the onset of the Program, developers and private investment have been important to the goals of public art. Now, whether permanent or temporary, Arlington public art projects are synonymous with civic design and involve a wholistic approach of working alongside architecture, landscape design, wayfinding design, urban forestry, historic preservation and community input.