RADFORD — The latest addition to the city’s public art campaign comes from the late international painter and sculptor Dorothy Gillespie.
More than 50 pieces of the Roanoke native’s colorful artwork will be featured around the city’s municipal buildings, parks, medians and other prominent locations, according to Deb Cooney, the city’s tourism director.
“The exhibit of brightly colored, enamel-painted aluminum sculptures features soaring spirals, starbursts and panels and will be on view through early June 2020,” according to a city news release.
The pieces — many of which have not been on display for years — were previously located in the Channel Gardens at New York City’s Rockefeller Center, according to mayor and Radford University employee David Horton.
Gillespie, who died in 2012, was an alumna and visiting professor at Radford University responsible for starting the college’s permanent art collection with one of her signature sculptures still sitting outside the school of visual and performing arts.
Her work has appeared across the country in a variety of settings such as the Guggenheim museum in New York City and at Disney World’s Epcot Center.
Cooney said the installation in Radford wouldn’t be possible without the help and generosity of Gillespie’s son, Gary Israel.
“We’re so delighted to be part of the Dorothy Gillespie Centennial Exhibition taking place throughout the U.S. ... Mr. Israel has been supportive of the city’s public art program from its initiation and, in fact, loaned Glencoe Mansion a work to install at the Mary Draper Ingles Cultural Heritage Park a couple of years ago,” she said in the release.
Horton believes the art not only enhances the aesthetics of the city, but also attracts people to the area.
“First and foremost, it looks great,” he said. “It also brings visitors to the area who want to see unique public art. One of my favorite places to visit is Boone [North Carolina] and it has a similar program there.”
Radford’s program began in 2016 with the Mary Draper Ingles statue near Glencoe, and has grown thanks to a series of grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, according to Cooney.
She said the city has received two grants worth approximately $8,000 thus far and hopes the program continues to grow and receive additional funding.
Cooney said the various installations have been well-received by citizens and have even sparked local businesses and artists to get involved with the program.
“We are improving our cultural landscape through art,” she said. “Local residents and businesses are now getting involved and displaying art of their own,” she said.
An interactive map locating and describing the various pieces around the city can be found at www.visitradford.com/arttrail.