Overview and History of the Public Art Program

The City of Roanoke views arts and culture as integral to the community by recognizing the potential of arts and culture to enhance the quality of life for Roanoke’s citizens, increase tourism, support education and stimulate the economy. The city also recognizes public art as a tool to create livable cities, create a heightened sense of place and community identity, enliven the visual quality of public space and enrich the spirit and pride of its citizens.

History of Public Art Program

  • Established in 2002
  • The Roanoke Arts Commission (RAC) was charged with the development of a detailed plan for public art.
  • In early 2004 City Council approved the hiring of a consultant to work with the RAC on the development of a plan.  Later that year Barney & Worth Inc. of Portland, Oregon and Olympia, Washington was engaged.  Also participating in the process was a representative of the Regional Arts & Culture Council of Portland, Oregon.
  • The RAC asked a 15-member steering committee of citizens to guide the process of the development of a public art plan.  Through a series of four public workshops, numerous surveys and stakeholder interviews the community was asked to dream about public art in the City of Roanoke.  The consultants used this feedback to develop “Art for Everyone: Roanoke Public Art Plan.”
  • City Council adopted the plan in April 2006 making it a part of the city’s Vision 2001/2020 Comprehensive Plan.  
  • In October 2006 a Public Art Coordinator was hired to oversee the implementation of the plan.  
  • In December 2006 City Council passed the Public Art Policy giving city staff and the RAC the authority to develop comprehensive guidelines outlining all aspects involved with the implementation of the Public Art Program.

Percent for Art Program

The city commissioned its first public art project under the Percent-for-Art Program, a permanent 30-foot tall stainless steel sculpture by Rodney Carroll of Baltimore.  The piece was dedicated at the Roanoke Performing Arts Center in October 2008.  That same month the RAC launched the city’s first temporary exhibit “AIR: Art in Roanoke” by placing eight temporary pieces around the city for 18 months. 

All permanent and temporary public art projects are supported by a one percent for art ordinance whereby one percent of the cost of certain items in the Capital Improvement Budget is dedicated to the public art program annually.

By 2015 more than 25 works had been added to the city’s public art collection.  See “Brief background on the City’s Art Program” and all documents related to the Public Plan under the documents section for more details.