Archive for May, 2015

Public Art in Montgomery County: What’s Next?

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Todd Bressi, Public Art and Place/Urban Planning expert  is working with the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County to develop the “Public Art Road Map”.  Read below for his thoughts on how this tool will help integrate public art into future development and urban planning strategies:


Chances are, you’ve seen one of the hundreds of public artworks in Montgomery County during your daily travels — perhaps at a school, a library or a park; perhaps in an urban space in Bethesda, Rockville or Silver Spring. Chances are there is a public artwork somewhere that has become a treasured part of your day because it brings a smile to your face, triggers a memory or simply lets you know where you are.

Montgomery County residents can enjoy hundreds of sculptures, murals, glassworks and other public art — commissioned over the years by the County, the cities of Gaithersburg and Rockville, and private developers — that are now woven into the fabric of the community.

Now, for the first time, the County is developing a “roadmap” for what kinds of artworks should be commissioned next, and it is asking for input from people who live or work in the County. As the County continues to grow in population, cultural diversity and economic vitality, public are will be an increasingly important part of the mix.

The Roadmap, a project of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, and the Public Art Trust, is asking an essential question: What new public art projects would be of the most benefit to people in Montgomery County today?

Looking around the world, there are exciting new models for public art that have emerged in recent years. Some examples of these can already be seen in Montgomery County, and the Roadmap will consider whether there are opportunities for creating more:

  • Placemaking projects, such as the Silver Creek fountain in Silver Spring, Darnestown Heritage Park or the Public Safety Memorial at the police headquarters building, create environments for social gathering, celebration, reflection and other activities.
  • Artist-designed pedestrian, bicycle and transit facilities, such as pedestrian bridges, bike racks and transit shelters, enhance ordinary infrastructure.
  • Social projects focus on community issues and identity. Just recently, AHCMC organized an Outdoor Living Room with artist Matthew Mazzotta to stimulate thinking about creative placemaking in the Wheaton Arts and Culture District
  • Environmental artists are developing projects that connect people with stormwater, weather, flora and fauna in new and engaging ways.
  • Temporary artworks are activating urban spaces for short periods of time.

The Roadmap will also examine areas of the County that could benefit most from new public art projects.

  • Are there areas where there are fewer public art projects, relative to population? Wheaton, East County and “second-ring” residential neighborhoods just outside the Beltway might deserve a closer look.
  • Can public art ideas and projects be seeded during comprehensive land-use planning process, and implemented as capital projects and private development occur?
  • Are there collaborations that can help support the mission and priorities of other County agencies and cultural initiatives, such M-NCPPC’s focus on small urban parks, or the County’s three Arts and Entertainment Districts?

We hope you will lend your voice to the conversation. How can public art impact the future of Montgomery County? What types of projects would be most beneficial? Take the Montgomery County Public Art Survey to give us your direct feedback.

Public Art as a Catalyst for Community Engagement

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Michele Cohen, Ph.D is an public art expert who has been working with AHCMC and the Montgomery County Public Art Trust to manage the commissioning and conservation of the County’s broad collection of outdoor sculpture and two-dimensional works.  Below, she blogs about our most recent public art initiative: The Wheaton Outdoor Living Room:

In tune with contemporary public art trends which emphasize social engagement, the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County recently launched an innovative public art initiative in Wheaton’s Arts & Entertainment District (AED).  MIT-trained public artist Matthew Mazzotta, widely known  for his award winning project “Open House“, visited Wheaton and met with residents, business owners, and elected officials over the course of a week to gain a sense of Wheaton’s past, present, and future – from the community’s perspective.

At the end of his visit, Matthew staged an “Outdoor Living Room” in the middle of  Wheaton Veteran’s Park, located in the convergence of Downtown, the Wheaton AED and Central Business District.  The sight of rugs, sofas, and lamps in the middle of this public space helped spark an incredible dialogue about public art amongst a diverse cross section of community members.

Matthew’s projects grow from the inside out; not only do they provide visual interest, they act as sounding boards and community catalysts.

Before Matthew’s arrival, we collected ideas and feedback from Wheaton residents and policy-makers about how our new “Wheaton Cultural Grants” funding opportunity could help support local creative placemaking activities and promote Wheaton’s relatively young Arts & Entertainment District.  We held several charrettes to hear directly from residents how they envisioned the arts and humanities playing a transformative role in their community.  What we learned was that Wheaton’s cultural and creative community wanted more places to display expressions of culture that embodied the spirit and diversity of their community and that would have the potential to transform Wheaton into a cultural and creative destination.

These outreach and research activities culminated in Matthew’s “Outdoor Living Room” which was an inspiring convening of community members truly invested in Wheaton’s future.  Matthew is developing a proposal for a public art design informed by his observations and the feedback he received.  We all look forward to seeing the next stages of this incredible project take shape!