The Evolving Role of Public Artwork in Montgomery County

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As our county continues to become more diverse, public art can fill a uniting role in bringing communities together

The Wheaton, Silver Spring and Bethesda Metro stations have pieces of public art that are hard to miss. The installation of Penguin Rush Hour (pictured above), Tunnel Vision or Beacon I will likely stop you in your tracks while you wonder: “How did this artwork get here?”

Penguin Rush Hour by artist Sally Callmer was originally created as a temporary public art installation at the Silver Spring station in the 1990s. However, the community united to raise money to repair the artwork and make it permanent. The penguins were so much a part of the community’s identity that Silver Spring … Continue reading

Montgomery Planning on the National Stage

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Planners presented cutting-edge concepts and projects through record five presentations at the 2018 National American Planning Association Conference in New Orleans

Montgomery Planning hit it big in the Big Easy. We were thrilled to present five sessions at the national American Planning Association (APA) conference, held from April 21 through April 23, 2018 in New Orleans. These presentations represent the most participation ever from our agency at this annual forum and we received great audience feedback about our ideas.

This year’s APA conference attracted about 5,700 planners, elected officials and planning junkies from across the country to learn about the latest trends and solutions to the challenges of land use, economic development, community revitalization and more (see photos of … Continue reading

Planning Department’s Painted Purple Pathway: A How-to Guide

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Sometimes a parking lot lies between you and your heart’s desire – reaching the café to buy a frappucino, enjoying a quiet moment along a shaded stream, dropping by your favorite lunch spot.  Or perhaps the car-choked lot is the gateway to your workplace.

Parking lots are rarely places of delight and walking through one often feels like being trapped in a nasty computer game.

Well, a couple of us who regularly advocate for squeezing every possible bit of walkability into communities decided to get our own house in order. Witness the bright new path through our parking lot at the Planning Department’s headquarters in Silver Spring.

This walkway connects the Woodside Park neighborhood to the north with Downtown … Continue reading

New Transit & New Artwork Coming to Arlington

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As many of you know, two streetcar lines are proposed for Arlington County: one along Columbia Pike and one through Crystal City.

Many of the benefits of the transit system are laid out in the planning vision for Columbia Pike & Crystal City, including:

Encouraging smart development; Providing attractive, comfortable, affordable transit, Encouraging revitalization, preservation, and affordability, and Spurring investment.

 

Another aspect of the project, however, is a commitment to integrate public art.  In this case, Barbara Bernstein has been commissioned to create works for several bus shelters along the Crystal City line.  Prototypes, renderings, and sample designs were on view until recently at the Arlington Arts Center, but information can still be found on their … Continue reading

Curating Public Art

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Over the past few decades, Montgomery County has seen a steady rise in the number of public art pieces, bringing artistry and creativity to spaces large and small. We see sculptures, art-enhanced plazas, benches and more in schools, libraries, parks, retail centers and office buildings. The collection provides a set of assets that contribute an extra appeal to the look and feel of our communities.

The Planning Department helps build the collection by encouraging developers to contribute public art in exchange for density.

Thus, we have an outdoor pool with real waves correlated to the tides outside the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration building in Silver Spring.

An outstretched palm with birds at a busy Silver Spring intersection.

And … Continue reading

Beauty and the Eye of the Beholder

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Everyone has an opinion about the new fountain at what people consider the “town square” of Bethesda–the plaza in front of Barnes & Noble Bookstore.  

As reported online in the Bethesda Patch most of the commenters think it was at best unecessary and at worst, a scheme to keep people from sitting out in front of the store. You can chime in as well by voting online. Unfortunately, out of 209 votes so far, 121 people (57%) don’t like it.

This is not a Bethesda phenomenon. In fact, just last week, the New York Times reported that Portland, Maine has removed a sculpture called Tracing the Fore. The article quotes Shawn McCarthy, who owns the bar across the street … Continue reading

Cool Commuting

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Sure, part of the reason we don’t use Metro is because it’s a long walk from home or you’ve got to pick up the kids after school or you’re just not that interested in the cell phone social life of your seatmate. But wouldn’t mass transit be a little more appealing if it felt like your commute was a scene from a very cool Japanese spy movie?

And Maryland made the New York Times this week as a community that has taken interesting steps toward being green. I can’t believe that DC beat us to taxing shopping bags, this seems like a natural for Montgomery County and isn’t everyone in the habit of traveling with a folded up bag … Continue reading

Place-making art; art-making place

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Seattle’s Downtown Transit Tunnel was designed as a collaborative project between the project consultant (Parson Brinckerhoff Quade and Douglas Inc.), the architecture subconsultant (TRA), and 25 artists.  The team created what they have termed a distinct “art-itecture” for each station representative of the neighborhood it serves.

The result is a fantastic model for the stations along the proposed Purple Line and the Corridor Cities Transitway.

Even after just a couple days riding the light-rail or buses through Seattle’s stations, a quick glance out the window provides a distinct impression that tells, or shows, where you are. The collaboration is obvious in the integration of artistic details and the creation of a place. You … Continue reading

A Few Links Found While Cleaning Out My Inbox

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On communities having more input. Not sure I’m down with the program advocated in all – or even most – cases.  But important for particularly important locations and projects, e.g., civic buildings and open spaces.

An example of the grassroots process advocated above that did work:  Paint Your Faith.

Paint Your Faith Video

On artists taking to the streets. But what isn’t more fun in Rome?

Share something in your local park. This is what the right to assembly is all about – knowledge pursued in public spaces.

Last, as if Rybczynski didn’t explain why our cities aren’t like Europe’s well enough – we’re still experimenting with ways to integrate bike transportation.

Elemental Art at United Therapeutics

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Several sculptural seating elements were created in the plaza space at the new United Therapeutics campus in Silver Spring (corner of Cameron and Spring) and I’ve only begun investigating their interactive potential. Scattered throughout the space and into the sidewalk, these 17- 23-inch poly-resin pieces are shaped like inverted cones stuck into the ground. Several have the symbols of elements, others have designs, most are undecorated.

Although fun and functional during the day, their real impact is seen – and heard – at night. The translucent poly-resin material houses LED lights that change color in random patterns based on pedestrian motion or according to a program. Whether this feature is “on” yet, I can’t tell – the colors intensified … Continue reading