Public art: Alexandria as a canvas

Public art: Alexandria as a canvas

Alexandrias landscape has gained some artistic nuance this summer. You may have noticed a powerful bronze sculpture where there once was nothing but a sidewalk, or an otherwise mundane intersection of Del Ray that boasts a quizzical but enticing egg-shaped piece of art.

Its all part of an initiative to add character to the city via public art. On Tuesday artist John Van Alstine installed Sacandaga Totem, a tall stone sculpture, on King Street in the citys latest installment. 

The most recent additions to the cityscape are part of what Alisa Carrel of the citys cultural activities department hopes will become a network of public masterpieces throughout the city. They should create a sense of identity from Old Town to the West End, she said.

We cant please everybody all the time, but every project we undertake, we want to make sure it reflects Alexandria, said Carrel.

More projects are in the works. The city just approved a mural at Mount Vernon Community School in Del Ray selected after a public process that will combine the creativity of local kids with artists. And panelists will decide between the final design for a police memorial on Saturday at the Lloyd house, where artists will be interviewed. A public reception begins at 6 p.m..

Carrels office is working on a public art master plan, and hopes to implement it once funding comes through. Budget constraints have that funding on the shelf until 2017, but the fact its being anticipated at all is thrilling, she said.

The city government made room for Carrels position in 2008. Public art is pretty, yes, but its also a significant moneymaker for the city, which is becoming increasingly noteworthy as an art destination.

Alexandrias art industry generates $80 million a year, according to a 2005 study.  A study to gauge its current worth is underway.

In the longer term, its definitely to create a space or several spaces for the enjoyment of the residents and visitors, Carrel said. But what we have found is that public art can be used as an economic generator, too.