Artists compete for $200k to make riverfront look even better

There’s an open call for artists who want to leave their mark along the James.

An artist will have roughly $200,000 to create public art along the James River near or within the proposed Brown’s Island Dam Walk (PDF) and Southbank Pathways, as the City hopes the artist will add additional scenic incentive to visit the riverfront as per its finalized Riverfront Plan (PDF).

“We want that public art to be so exciting that it will pull individuals down to that bank, because it’s not as heavily visited as Brown’s Island or Belle Isle,” said Douglas Dunlap, Deputy Director of Planning & Development Review. “In that respect, it will help pull people across the bridge so they can see portions of the riverfront park that they haven’t seen before.”

The City encourages artists to submit a Request for Qualifications and other required materials by September 5th to be considered for the project.

“It’s a call for artists,” said Susan Reed, Chair of the Public Art Commission, which will help oversee the artist’s selection. “We’re not even asking for a piece to be submitted as a proposal. We’re looking for an artist and reviewing their portfolio work.” The commission will be open to all artistic mediums for the final project: murals, sculpture, multimedia, etc. “It really can be anything,” Reed said.

Reed, an associate at Commonwealth Architects, lauded the Riverfront Plan for having a section specifically for public art. “That was exciting to see, the concept of public art integrated in the beginning of the plans for the riverfront,” she said.

Dunlap said the public art project is an extension of the Percent for Art program the City implemented in 1997. “For any major project involving capital improvement funds, those projects where there will be public access either in the facility or on the property, one percent of those funds are dedicated to public art,” he said. “Before the program was established, the city sort of haphazardly funded the public arts projects, and there wasn’t any consistency to the amount or a dedicated source.”

The City will host a webinar1 on August 7th at 1:00 PM for artists interested in being considered for the riverfront art project. After the September 5th deadline, the commission will narrow down their top choices. The City will then invite those artists to submit proposals for the public art project.

“At the end of the day, what we’re looking for is the very best artist,” Dunlap said. “And we’re looking for an artist that we feel comfortable with who will be able to come in and give us the very best product.”

The City should select the project artist by late October.

photo by Ron Cogswell

  1. Those interested should RSVP by contacting Matthew Ebinger, Secretary for the PAC, via email or at 804.646.6308. 
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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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