Archive for the ‘Public Art’ Category

Public Art in Gaithersburg

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Jennifer was one of our Public Art Survey Interns for Summer 2012. Read on to learn more about her experience surveying public art in Gaithersburg.

This internship experience made me notice and appreciate our community’s public art more than ever before. Personally, I would have to say that my favorite public art piece from the Gaithersburg area would be the bronze metal columns from Watkins Mill High School. I remember when I walked into the school and immediately this piece of art caught my eye. Something about the bronze metal and the color scheme appealed to me. I thought it was very interesting how the artist combined science, mathematics, and culture into one abstract piece of art.

Untitled by Evelyn Rosenberg at Watkins Mill High School

Another one of my favorite artworks was the Past, Present, and Future ceramic mural by Cheryl Foster at the Upper County Community Center. I thought it was amazing how Foster incorporated pieces of old toys in her mural. Although this piece of art has some damage, it has a meaningful place in our community. I hope this piece will be repaired and preserved so that others can enjoy it. [Editor's Note: Past, Present, and Future will be assessed by a public art conservator. Look out for a blog post about it!]

Past, Present and Future by Cheryl Foster and Cheryl Teichberg at the Upper County Community Center

Also at Stone Mill Elementary School, the Flower Clock and seven-panel mosaic mural by Lilli Ann, Marvin, and Ben Rosenberg were one of my favorite pieces. I loved how the mural was very bright and colorful, depicting flowers and a farm-like scene.

The Flower Clock by Ben, Marvin & Lilli Ann Rosenberg at Stone Mill Elementary School

My experience at AHCMC has helped me understand the importance of conserving public art and how it adds character to our community.

Public Art Conservation: Alba Rosa

Friday, June 29th, 2012

In the Spring of 2012, the Arts and Humanities Council launched an inventory of the County’s public art collection. Many of the County’s artworks require conservation–they need more than a simple hosing and cleaning.

To assist us in our effort to assess and treat the collection, Bethesda conservator Connie Stromberg examined several pieces, and with a team, treated the red granite disk fountain sculpture, Alba Rosa, or Red Morning. This simple granite piece by Seattle-based Joseph A. McDonnell provides a quiet place to enjoy shade and respite. Marking the entrance to the County garage on 1325 Fenwick Avenue, it is one of the first pieces in the collection to be commissioned as part of the County’s art in architecture program.

Salt and dirt accretions, coupled with damages caused by the annual removal and reinstallation of the internal pump, marred and destabilized this piece. Ms. Stromberg treated both the cosmetic and structural components of the sculptural fountain.

Here is a closer look:

To remove salts, the conservators had to apply poultices soaked in an aqueous acidic cleaner as well as use single edged razors to lightly scrape the surface.

Stainless steel stops were attached to the pool floor ¾” from the lower edge of the base, to prevent excessive outward slippage of the panel.

The access panel on the lower PR side was repaired using an epoxy material to fill losses and replace the deteriorated white material in the repaired cracks. The screen across the opening in the access panel was replaced with a stainless steel open mesh grid.

Now that the piece is conserved, the water filtration system needs to be tweaked so that mineral deposits and the harsh effects of chlorine are minimized.

AHCMC will be conserving numerous County artworks in the coming months. Let us know if artworks need attention in your neighborhood!

Exploring the Works on Paper Collection: Richard Anuszkiewicz

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

When I volunteered to help out with AHCMC’s Works on Paper collection, I had no idea what to expect. Works on Paper – could be anything, right? So imagine my delight when, during my first day going through the list of works, I came across Untitled, a silkscreen by Richard Anuszkiewicz.

Untitled, Richard Anuszkiewicz. Silkscreen, 25 1/2"H x 19 1/2"W, 1965ca. Our inventory #: WP0016

Born in Erie, PA to Polish parents, Anuszkiewicz is a true American artist. After getting his degree from the Cleveland Institute of Arts, his painting underwent a major change when he got the chance to study under Josef Albers at Yale. Albers – another artist in our collection – was a leading abstract painter and color theorist, and under his guidance, Anuszkiewicz began to explore a more abstract vision.

It may seem easy to dismiss this type of abstract work if you don’t know the ideas behind it. Actually, though, this piece is a look at how our perception of one color is affected by the colors and light around it. It examines the way our eyes work, and the ways in which they can deceive us. To see examples of these, click here. Then go back and look at the Anuszkiewicz work. Don’t you wonder whether the color you think you see is the color that’s actually there? I, for one, find it pretty fascinating that the color I see might not actually be painted there.

The work owned by Montgomery County is one of the works Anuszkiewicz produced after his studies with Albers, since it is not realistic. Based on the colors and patterns, it’s quite likely that the work dates from the mid-to-late sixties. And thanks to Montgomery County and AHCMC, this beautiful work is available in a county office for staff – and visitors, which means you and me – to enjoy!

Notes from the Field: Sligo-Dennis Avenue Local Park

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

This semester, AHCMC is launching an inventory of public art in Montgomery County under the direction of Dr. Michele Cohen, Public Art Contractor. Students from Montgomery College and George Mason University will collect information on the art works and provide readers with short photo-logs and blogs about what they’re finding in the field as they identify and survey the County’s sizable collection.

My survey partner, Sonia, and Ayana, Kyran, Dylan (my three kids) and I went to see more exterior sculptures. We simply loved it as much as the previous week. After visiting four different places in Silver Spring, and discovering four beautiful sculptures near four nice little parks, the kids still did not have enough of being detectives and wanted to see more — even after almost three hours of exploring. I am sure that every child would enjoy being a detective! I was too tired to continue, and it was a little cold, not counting that it was almost dinner time.

There is one piece in particular that touched me that is dedicated to anybody who lost a child because of drunk driving. It represents two little kids, a boy and a girl. Some sculptures make you think, imagine if you had lost your child this way? I cannot even think about it, I would go crazy. But if you just look at the sculpture, this is not what it prompts you to think about. The commemorative plaque conveys the message. A descriptive label can totally change how you look at something. I will let you discover this sculpture for yourself. If you ever feel the urge to go find it, here is a hint: it’s in the Sligo-Dennis Avenue Local Park in Silver Spring. Alright, I will also give you a second hint — its name is Whispers.

"Whispers" by Steve Weitzman in the Sligo Dennis Avenue Local Park, Silver Spring, MD

I would love to see more parents do what I do with my kids and share their experience. Like I said last week, art is so important for the good development of a child’s mind, but people usually see art just as making art and they forget that seeing art has the same importance, and maybe is more important. What people forget is that you don’t just have to see art in museums or galleries — just visit your nearest park. There might be a sculpture right there hiding behind a tree that you have never seen.

Notes from the Field: Flower Avenue Urban Park

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

This semester, AHCMC is launching an inventory of public art in Montgomery County under the direction of Dr. Michele Cohen, Public Art Contractor. Students from Montgomery College and George Mason University will collect information on the art works and provide readers with short photo-logs and blogs about what they’re finding in the field as they identify and survey the County’s sizable collection.

"Faces of Flower Avenue" by George F. Fishman (1992)

Last week, Sonia (my coworker this semester), my three children and I inventoried and inspected some of the Public Art Trust’s outdoor sculptures including one at the Flower Avenue Urban Park (pictured here). My kids–Ayana, Kyran, and Dylan–had great fun being detectives looking for sculptures hiding in parks. The sculptures were very nice and almost all of them were in parks with busy playgrounds. Unfortunately, nobody paid any attention to the sculptures because they were not located close enough to the playgrounds. I think if the sculptures were integrated with the playground they would be more appreciated.

When we asked people what they thought about the pieces, they all replied that they liked them but they also agreed that the sculptures were a little isolated. It is unfortunate to have such nice sculptures and have them so isolated or have them in the wrong location.

Once they discovered the near-by playgrounds, my children forgot that the sculptures even existed. This is the main reason why I believe that placing these sculptures closer to the playgrounds would be a plus and kids would be exposed to art while they played. Not everybody has the chance to have a mum or a dad that is an artist, like I am, and that will take them on expeditions to see art for the fun and the pleasure of discovery. Art surrounds us and what better way to explore its wonder than while playing with your child?

“Deferring maintenance of public art year after year is not economical.”

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Below is the second testimony submitted to Montgomery County Council last Thursday in support of the Public Arts Trust:

Good evening. My name is Dr. Michele Cohen. I was the founding director of New York City’s Public Art for Public Schools program for twenty years and I am currently a consultant to the AHCMC, the custodian of Montgomery County’s vast collection of public art. I have written books on public art, taught courses about public art, supervised NYC’s sculpture inventory, and managed a collection of over 1,200 artworks in NYC schools: I know the challenges of caring for art in the public realm.

Corrision, Leaching and Damaged Seating Element
Corrision, leaching and damaged seating element

Montgomery County has a significant public art collection, including portable works in government offices, murals and sculptural installations in schools, iconic pieces marking courthouses, parks, and community centers—works that add to the quality of life for all of Montgomery County’s residents and visitors. Nationally known artists include Muriel Castanis, George Greenamyer, Joseph McDonnell, and Mary Ann Unger. Over the last three decades, many agencies helped form this collection, but none have taken ownership of it. As years of deferred maintenance accrue, the condition of objects has worsened, and now about 15% or 50 major sculptural installations in public spaces require substantial treatment—more than just hosing down and waxing.


“Just as the County invests funds to maintain buildings, artworks require resources for maintenance as well as conservation.”

Monday, February 13th, 2012
Public Arts Trust consultant, Michele Cohen, and AHCMC CEO Suzan Jenkins testifying to Montgomery County Council

Public Arts Trust consultant, Michele Cohen, and AHCMC CEO Suzan Jenkins testifying to Montgomery County Council

Last Thursday, February 9, we testified to Montgomery County Council to encourage them to  protect their $4+ million investment and fund conservation and maintenance for County-owned public art. Below is one of the written testimonies submitted to Montgomery County Council:

Council President Berliner, esteemed members of the County Council, thank you for your past support of the arts and humanities in Montgomery County. I am here today to ask you to appropriate funding for the Public Arts Trust (PAT) in FY13/FY14.

The Arts and Humanities Council (AHCMC) was distressed to learn that appropriation was not included in the FY13/FY14 Public Arts Trust CIP #729658 as this funding is critical to protect and maintain the County’s assets of over $4M already invested in public art. A Cost Change for FY13 and 14 is noted in CIP#729658 to allocate a TBD amount to AHCMC’s operating budget for maintenance of assets currently in the Trust.

I ask you now to allocate an appropriate level of funding in the CIP that will allow AHCMC to manage the Trust responsibly. Even funding 50% of the former allocation would be hugely impactful.


Works on Paper Gets Closer Look

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

I’m Crystal Polis.  You may have read in the News & Views You Can Use! that I recently joined AHCMC to conduct an assessment of the Works on Paper Collection. From time to time, I’ll be sending out blogs and articles to tell you what’s going on with the assessment.

I’ve been on the job since early September and thus far, I have installed a new collections database called ArtSystems for the Works on Paper Collection, and we anticipate that the Public Art Collection will be added to it too.  I have converted all the old records and found that we over 550 Works on Paper.  These are prints, drawings and paintings.  They range in date from the late 1960s to the early 2000s.  I am also reconfiguring the storage area so we can properly house framed works while they are not on loan for display.

I have begun visiting county offices to inventory and photograph what is on loan.  Last week, I went to one of the Health and Human Services buildings, where I was so pleased to find that the employees were extremely conscientious stewards of their loaned works.  Joanne Becka and Eve Guerrero, an artist herself, shared with me their memories of going to the Art Swaps held many years ago.  At one time, there was a biannual event where county employees returned loaned works to swap out for new ones.  Now that the Arts and Humanities Council has inherited the collection, we will deal with loans on a case-by-case, office-by-office basis; that way county employees do not have to assume the risk of carrying around and delivering artwork.

I also visited the County Office Building last week.  They have a large share of the collection on the 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th floors.  Again, I was pleased to see how carefully most of the pieces were hung and to hear that employees value them.  I did hear a few requests for different or new items, and I hope that is something the AHCMC’s small staff can address in the near future.

"Rescue & Engine Co. No. 1" by A. Brockie Stevenson, an artist of the American Realist school. According to his Washington Post obituary (he died in 2009 at the age of 89), he painted with the guidance of a T square, compass and ruler. His precision is clearly demonstrated in this silkscreen. This print is currently hanging on the 6th floor of the County Office Building in Rockville.

Of course if you work in a County office building and have County artwork that is damaged or no longer wanted, please call the Arts and Humanities Council and a staff person will make arrangements to retrieve it as soon as possible.

Want to know more? Contact me at

Public Art Brings History to Life

Friday, September 30th, 2011

If you’re new to the area you may not know that the Veirs Mill area was part of an extensive mill industry that thrived in 19th century Montgomery County.  Now, public art has brought that history to life again in the Rock Creek Trail Pedestrian Bridge.

The 605-foot-long Bridge which spans Veirs Mill Road at Aspen Hill Road is an excellent example of how public art creates lively community spaces. In this day of multilane highways and strip malls, the history and soul of a place is often lost under a barrage of chain stores and restaurants.  But for walkers, bicyclists and motorists near at the Rock Creek Pedestrian Bridge, over one hundred years of local history can be found and enjoyed in this beautiful bridge and the surrounding grounds. The Bridge was dedicated on July 23, 2011 with much fun and hoopla.

Pictured from left to right: B.C. Mehta, Lead Bridge Engineer, URS Corporation; Shellie Williams, Arts & Humanities Council; Vicki Scuri, Artist; Doug Simmons, Deputy Administrator, State Highway Administration; Casey Anderson, Montgomery County Planning Board member; Senator Roger Manno; Mary R. Bradford, Director of Parks, M-NCPPC Montgomery Parks; Francoise Carrier, Chair, Montgomery County Planning Board; Councilmember Phil Andrews; Sara Rosen, on behalf of Congressman Chris Van Hollen; Dilip Pandya, retired Project Manager, M-NCPPC Montgomery Parks; and Kris Krishnamurthy, Construction Manager, M-NCPPC Montgomery Parks (Photo Credit: Francine Bethea)

With support from the Montgomery County Arts & Humanities Council/Public Arts Trust, the Department of Parks commissioned artist Vicki Scuri as part of the planning, design and construction team to improve the overall appearance of the bridge.   Scuri, a Washington- State-based artist, is known nationally for her community-based infrastructure design and the emphasis she places on community identity through awareness of place, history and culture.

I asked Vicki to share how she chose the historical references seen in the Bridge. Here are her responses:

Scuri: In the early 1800s, there were numerous mills in Montgomery County with a heavy concentration in what is now the Veirs Mill area. Because of this distinctive history, I chose water and the waterwheel as a primary motif for the bridge. You can see the influence of water in the curving fencing of the pedestrian bridge. The waterwheel theme is repeated in the concrete pillars that support the bridge and again in the planter design on the south side of the bridge.

Another source of inspiration came from the Cabin John area where Victorian Washingtonians came to relax, play and enjoy the beautiful grounds around the Cabin John Hotel. The grounds included an ornate iron footbridge that epitomized Victorian Romanticism. The fencing of the Rock Creek Bridge replicates the crisscross pattern found on the Cabin John footbridge and in general harks back to that playful and romantic time in the late 19th century.

If you’d like to learn more about public art in Montgomery County then click here to see our short and snappy multimedia overview!

The Art on the Go! saga: Site visits

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

As we announced in last week’s newsletter, we’re launching a public art mobile tour called Art on the Go! It’ll give you an insider’s perspective on selected pieces of public art around the county — all you’ll have to do is whip out your phone, dial a number and listen! While not every single piece will be included, we’re planning to launch the first batch later this year.

Creating the public art mobile tour takes a lot of legwork. Not only do we have to scout out and identify which pieces to include, but we also have to design signage, obtain permission to mount signage, make site visits and consult with facility managers on its placement and write and record scripts. Yikes.

Last week, Fran and I visited the Montgomery College Takoma Park/Silver Spring Performing Arts Center to take a look at the public art installation there: “Watermark” by David Hess. Here’s a picture of the piece taken with the Instagram app:

We spent some time exploring the different places the plaque could go:

Thank you to Montgomery College for opening its doors to Art on the Go!, and thank you to OnCell Systems for supporting this tour. We’ll blog periodically about our adventures in developing the tour — stay tuned!

What piece of public art in Montgomery County are you curious about?