Slover Library, LL40

235 E. Plume St.

Norfolk, VA 23510

(757) 664-6854

Public Art


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“Bringing people together through the arts” 

Norfolk Arts seeks to create a rich, diverse, environment that reflects, celebrates and invites all to experience the arts.  We seek to give voice to our community and strive to unite, energize, prompt dialogue, and inspire the unique character of Norfolk.




A distinguishing characteristic of great cities is the interweaving of art into the urban fabric.  Public art is artwork in public locations where everyone can see and enjoy it.  Public art has been around since the pyramids and cave paintings.  It is the involvement of artists in the same places in which the time, energy and money of the community are engaged.  Public art can include anything from traditional sculptures, paintings and mosaics to manhole covers, paving patterns, lighting and other elements created by an artist.  There are over 350 public art programs in North America that actively commission artists to create public art.

Norfolk is among the great cities that utilize public art to inspire, educate, beautify and give character to public places.  In the 2006 budget 1% of new capital projects over $500,000 was set aside for the purpose of the acquisition of artwork.  A Public Arts Commission was established and, together with City staff, developed policies for the creation of artwork that creates a unique image and sense of place for Norfolk.  Through the public art process we celebrate historic events and persons and provide opportunities to facilitate the community values of inclusion, civic pride, cultural diversity and appreciation of the creative spirit.


Public art has the power to energize our public spaces, arouse our thinking and transform the places where we live, work and play into more welcoming, beautiful and interactive communities.

The presence of public art can heighten our awareness, question our assumptions, transform landscapes and express our community values.  Over time, public art has the power to reveal the unique character of a city and its individual neighborhoods. An average of 55 million viewers experience public art firsthand every day for free (approximately 1,000 times the audience experiencing art galleries, museum and theaters combined).

HOW ARE PUBLIC ART PROJECTS FUNDED?                                                 

While Norfolk has displayed artwork throughout the city for many years, the City Council formally established the Public Arts Commission and adopted a funding ordinance in 2008.  The ordinance provides for 1% of any city capital improvement budget over $500K to be dedicated to designing and installing public art.


An average public art project stimulates our economy by providing grass roots building funds to artists, contractors, engineers, and other small businesses as well as promoting tourism. “The Gates” for New York City generated over $254 million during its two week installation.  The “WaterFire” public art project in Providence, RI, attracts 350,000 people annually translating into 4 million additional dollars each year.


For each public art project, a planning committee is established that is made up of representatives of the community, the Public Arts Commission, a user department representative, the project architect and/or landscape architect and an art professional.

This group develops the project intent, theme, location, media, scale and style; then they review the submissions and select the artist.  The process of commissioning artwork is the meeting of minds on many levels.