A sunrise mural later this year may grace a tan-brick wall at the Vienna Community Center, and three other Vienna Public Art Commission projects also appear to have the Vienna Town Council’s support.
Commission leaders, who outlined their plans at a Jan. 23 Council work session, first play to move ahead with the sunrise mural, titled “A New Day,” which would be painted on the south wall of the community center’s old gymnasium.
The painting would commemorate the community’s emergence from the recent pandemic, said Deborah Kennedy, chairman of the Vienna Public Art Foundation.
The commission would hire an artist to create a design for a mural, then transfer that image onto the wall.
The organization then would invite local residents – who each might donate $10 for the privilege – to paint one brick a solid color, and these would form part of the larger mural design.
The wall section has about 4,000 bricks, about one-third of which would need to be accessed via scaffolding and hence not by the public. A frame around the design also would take some bricks out of contention for donations, Kennedy said.
Organizers expect to bring in between $6,000 and $20,000 in donations and they plan to ask local businesses to match up to $500 worth of donations collected between certain hours on the painting day.
It’s crucial for the mural to be painted on a town-owned building, Kennedy said.
“We can’t get held hostage by a property owner who makes a different decision,” she said. “Furthermore, this isn’t about painting a wall. It’s about making a statement.”
The Council will have to sign off on the use of the wall and the mural’s design.
“You will get to approve that picture before any paint goes on that wall,” Kennedy said, adding that the commission would work with town staff on a maintenance plan for the mural.
If the Council grants its assent, the commission likely could begin painting the wall in September or October.
The community center is an ideal spot for the mural because it is at the center of the town and its activities, said Vienna Public Art Commission chairman Mike Cheselka.
The Town Council seemed enthusiastic about the potential mural.
“I don’t like the project. I absolutely love the project,” said Council member Ed Somers.
Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert said she liked the project’s community aspect and urged proponents to work with the Council and Vienna Board of Architectural Review on developing the final design.
“It’s not only noncontroversial, it’s very bright, it’s very happy,” she said of the preliminary design. “Public art is so good for all of us, good for our souls.”
The commission also is working on potential projects to:
• Paint a Cherry Street wall mural on the exterior brick enclosure of the community center’s dumpsters.
• Create Harmony Park at Centennial Park, located next to the historic red caboose along the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Trail. NOVA Parks owns the site and has given its approval for the project. If the Council agrees, the Vienna Public Art Commission would purchase and install four metal “flower instruments” there.
Each flower would produce a different note, and the public could produce sounds by striking the instruments with mallets. The flowers would be placed far from any residences, Kennedy said.
• Paint utility pipes on the back of Town Hall so as to make them blend in with the building’s brick wall and then adding painted vegetation. Washington Gas has granted its approval to paint the pipes, commission members said.
Council member Charles Anderson favored those first two projects, but hoped to see preliminary designs for the Town Hall pipes.
Council members Ray Brill Jr., Howard Springsteen and Steve Potter liked the projects for the dumpster enclosure and Town Hall pipes, but had concerns about possible discordant, repetitive sounds emanating from musical flowers near the town’s caboose.
“Not that they aren’t pretty, but not everyone was born Mozart,” Brill said. “I think that you need to have something that will reduce the decibels, particularly if it’s constant.”
Mallets are available that produce only 40 decibels, and the commission could order fewer flowers, Cheselka said.
Council member Nisha Patel was not concerned about noise, saying the instruments, would produce 46 decibels at close range and the site was open-air and not enclosed.
“There are tons and tons of kids here who I think would absolutely love it, especially the little ones,” she said.
A park in Leesburg has such instruments and the Council likely will do a field trip there to assess its impact, Colbert said.
“We want to say ‘yes’ to this,” she said.
The seven-member Vienna Public Art Commission, formed in 2017, advises the Council on matters of advancing public art in the town.
“Vienna does not need public art, not like it needs sewer and police and sidewalks,” Kennedy said. “But Vienna needs public art the way it needs fireworks, ViVa! Vienna! and the Halloween Parade, because those are the things people talk about when they say how amazing this town is to live in.”
While those popular things long have been available in Vienna and the public has come to expect them, public art is not as well-known, Kennedy said.
To build a solid funding base for public art, local leaders must demonstrate the demand for it in a “very visible way that is unmistakable,” Kennedy said.
The commission also is hiring a grant writer to help it obtain ongoing fund sources, Kennedy said.
“I’d like to get out of the business of paying for an entire project straight from our funding,” she said.