From idea to installation – how art comes to be in the city
A lot of pieces come together between the idea of a sculpture and the installation of a sculpture. Those pieces include a site, an artist, a work of art and, of course, funding.
Memory of Green
Often we start with a site. High-visibility locations are at the top of our list because we want people to enjoy our art as they go about their lives. Some pieces, however, need a more intimate setting. The tenderness of Memory of Green, for example, calls for the sheltered, peaceful spot it enjoys in a grove of trees outside an office complex.
Sometimes developments are planned with sculpture in mind. It was obvious from the beginning that the important City Center project deserved important art, so the nearby traffic circle was designed to accommodate sculpture.
Sometimes we select a site first, then seek out a work that suits it. Sometimes we start with an artist whose work we think belongs in Newport News, and try to find a site that’s just right for it.
Marrying site and art is itself an art. The strong, clean lines of Elements and Spring Breeze work well in locations where most people see them only briefly while driving by. Izar’s soaring verticals are well suited to the airport’s entrance. The machined look of Reinvented is perfect for an industrial and office park. The gentle, unfolding calm of Spirit of Life suits a hospital grounds, and Build a Dream’s energy and movement reflect the aspirations underpinning the community revitalization project it anchors.
There are practical concerns as well. Visibility is an issue: We need to make sure the art is easily seen by passersby and consider the angle from which they will approach it. We consider whether they’ll be in cars or on foot. We take care not to compromise the visibility at intersections.
We make sure there’s a mix of art in Newport News. Not everyone likes every piece, but a broad variety ensures that everyone can find pieces they enjoy and pieces that challenge them to think or wonder. Our collection includes both figurative and abstract works, pieces with strong traditional roots and some that are contemporary.
Once an artist is chosen, we bring them to Newport News to see the site. Sculptors are sensitive to the environment in which their work will be placed, and they need to see the context first-hand so they can take it into account as they create.
For every piece of art a funding source must be found. Sometimes, it follows naturally from the site. When the decision was made to put sculpture in front of a new building in Oyster Point, the developer stepped forward to fund it. Riverside Health System and Dr. Hugh McCormick and his family generously sponsored Spirit of Life. In other cases, we turn to the community that will enjoy the art — money for Carambola came from the neighborhood around the library where it’s placed.
The last step is installation. It takes architects, engineers and construction crews to make sure a sculpture is secure on its foundation. Crane and rigging specialists lift the pieces which weigh thousands of pounds and put them down in place. Lighting designers work with artists to make sure each piece looks just right at night. Landscape design is customized to the site and custom benches are added at some pieces so people can stop and enjoy “their” art.
Use our interactive map as your guide to finding art throughout the city!
735 Thimble Shoals Boulevard, Suite 100
Newport News, VA 23606
The Newport News Public Art Foundation is grateful for the support of the Virginia Commission for the Arts and National Endowment for the Arts