Roanoke’s public art program is 10 years old, and the Roanoke Arts Commission is commemorating this milestone with a year-long celebration.
Guided by a public art plan adapted in 2006, the city commissioned its first public art project in 2008, and began Art in Roanoke, a program of temporary outdoor sculpture exhibitions. Some of those temporary sculptures have been purchased by the city.
One aspect of the celebration entails calling more attention to the city’s public art collection, which at present holds 153 pieces. Of those works, 64 were acquired in the 10 years since the public art program began.
“Every month in social media, we’re featuring a different artwork,” said Roanoke arts and culture coordinator Susan Jennings. (Her part-time job was created in 2006 to oversee the art plan.) Videos and posts related to the celebration have appeared on the Art in Roanoke Facebook page.
“I’m proud of what we’re doing,” said Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea in an Art in Roanoke video. “It’s important for us to continue to fund the arts,” he said, because “it’s the lifeblood of the city.”
September’s featured work is “Henry Street,” a colored-pencil drawing by the late David Ramey that hangs in the Municipal Building.
Ramey, who died in May at age 78, dedicated himself to drawing scenes he remembered from Roanoke’s black neighborhoods and business districts before they were demolished through urban renewal.
The art celebration featured “In My Hands” by Baltimore sculptor Rodney Carroll in July, the 2008 sculpture at the Berglund Center commissioned to honor the city’s 125th anniversary. August’s featured work was Roanoke sculptor Ann Glover’s popular “Trojan Dog,” which looks like a large wooden toy dog as it stands by Fire Station #7 on Memorial Avenue.
In some instances, people who click “Like” on the Art in Roanoke Facebook posts can win prizes like show tickets and gift certificates.
Jennings declined to say which works might be featured in the remaining months, as she doesn’t want to spoil any surprises.
The social media promotions and contests are one part of the celebration. In July, the city council approved a $104,500 2017-18 public art budget that includes $50,000 to fund a new work commemorating the art plan’s 10th year. The funding comes via Roanoke’s Percent for Art Ordinance, which requires that 1 percent of Roanoke’s capital improvements budget be set aside for public art.
The Roanoke Arts Commission is considering two possible concepts and locations for the commemorative work. One option involves creating a light display inside the glassed-in pedestrian bridge from Hotel Roanoke to the downtown Roanoke market. The other would be a sculpture in the park at the intersection of Williamson Road and Wells Avenue Northeast.
Jennings said the arts commission will post a national call for submissions for the project later in the fiscal year.
There are four other art ventures on the 2017-18 agenda.
The city’s department of stormwater management is working with the arts commission to add six public murals that will decorate six storm drains. The stormwater management department will cover the cost of the project. The commission plans to post a call for proposals in the fall with a goal of completing the murals in the spring.
The commission has renewed Art by Bus, a program in partnership with Valley Metro and the Ride Solutions program that decorates buses with reproductions of art from the city’s permanent collection. The program also invites a writer or artist to take rides on bus routes and create a book or other work based on their experiences.
The budget allots $6,000 for an indoor mural on the first floor of the Municipal Building, and $45,000 for art to decorate the Melrose Library branch, once it moves from its Salem Turnpike location by Horton Park to a nearby building on Melrose Avenue and undergoes a $4 million expansion.
“It’s an ambitious year,” Jennings said.