In communities across the country, government agencies and city councils are pairing with individual artists and arts nonprofits to create a stronger sense of place through art. Whether through landscape design, sculpture, murals or streetscapes, neighborhoods urban and rural alike are discovering the benefits of this collaborative approach to designing communities. We explore the challenges, rewards and art of placemaking.


  • Roger Lewis Architect; Columnist, "Shaping the City," Washington Post; and Professor Emeritus of Architecture, University of Maryland College Park
  • Liesel Fenner Public Art Program Manager, Americans for the Arts; licensed landscape architect
  • Angela Anderson Adams Public Art Administrator, Arlington Economic Development


  • 12:06:40

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. Great masterpieces are typically cloistered, displayed in museums behind layers of security or in the homes of private collectors where the public can view them during certain hours or with an express invitation.

  • 12:07:19

    MR. KOJO NNAMDIMeanwhile, public art in forms ranging from landscape architecture to sculpture is part of our everyday lives. It's what makes thoroughfares like the National Mall and the Champs-Elysees instantly recognizable. And why places like Chicago's Cloud Gate and New York's Highline draw crowds. Here to talk about the rewards and challenges of placemaking through public art is Roger Lewis, an architect who writes the Shaping the City column for the Washington Post. He's also professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland College Park. Welcome back, Roger.

  • 12:07:52

    MR. ROGER LEWISThank you very much. Glad to be here again.

  • 12:07:54

    NNAMDIHow was your trip?

  • 12:07:55

    LEWISFabulous except for the weather. Northwestern Europe is...

  • 12:07:57

    NNAMDIYou dumped your car once you left Brussels. Why was that?

  • 12:08:01

    LEWISOh because you don't want a car in Paris. We left Brussels to go to Paris and you don't want a car in Paris.

  • 12:08:05

    NNAMDIWe're going to talk a little bit about that. Today also in studio with us is Angela Anderson Adams, public art administrator for Arlington Economic Development, which aims to preserve and enhance an economically competitive and sustainable community and create exciting diverse and amenity-rich places. Angela Anderson Adams, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:08:24

    MS. ANGELA ANDERSON ADAMSIt's a pleasure. Thank you for inviting me.

  • 12:08:26

    NNAMDIAlso with us is Liesel Fenner, public art program manager at American's for the Arts in Washington, D.C. where she develops national programs and services affricating for excellence in public art and design. She's also a licensed landscape architect. Liesel Fenner, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:08:44

    MS. LIESEL FENNERThank you, Kojo.

  • 12:08:45

    NNAMDIYou too can join us, the conversation that is, at 800-433-8850. Does public art enhance your daily environment? Tell us about where you see it and what you like or don't about it, 800-433-8850. You can send email to Shoot us a Tweet at kojoshow or you can go to our website, Ask a question or make a comment there. Roger, much like beauty, art is often defined by the beholder. When it comes to public art what are we talking about? Why should we care about the esthetic quality of publically-viewed spaces?

  • 12:09:20

    LEWISThere are lots of answers to that question. I think that, first of all, public art should be recognized by the listeners as not just objects dropped or installed in a public space on a plaza or whatever, but the whole public realm, the streetscape, civic spaces that we have even -- and privately owned as well as publically owned spaces -- the privately owned spaces that in fact are publically visible and accessible, all of those can be artfully designed. So I always like to remind people that we ought to begin, first of all, to make beautiful spaces, whether or not we're installing separately some artwork.

  • 12:09:58

    LEWISSo I think the benefit of that of course is that people enjoy being -- walking through those kinds of environments. I think that -- I just came back from Paris and people walk around Paris -- you don't drive a car in Paris -- and they walk around that city because so many of the places -- the public places are places that are beautiful and are amenable to not just walking but to visually admiring what is there. And you could argue that there's in fact a measurable benefit. All those people are not driving cars, they're not spewing carbon into the atmosphere. It's -- I think it's a pretty easy sell once you understand what it means and also once you see a place that isn't beautiful to be in.

  • 12:10:45

    NNAMDIAngela Anderson Adams, not all governments put a premium on design, but Arlington County has been in the business of promoting it for decades. What do you do as a public art administrator?

  • 12:10:57

    ADAMSWell, I carry forward a legacy program which I was lucky enough to inherit a few years ago. Actually it started in the late '70s with a developer contribution in Rosslyn which we now know as Dark Star Park. And that actually started us off on an integrated approach to public art. Very much what Roger just described, that we look at artists joining design teams to make sure that our infrastructure, our buildings, our public space is as beautiful and as vibrant as possible.

  • 12:11:29

    NNAMDIPlacemaking is a term you hear a lot in discussion of public art, Roger. What does it mean to you?

  • 12:11:36

    LEWISWell, I think the implication of placemaking is making places that are again beautiful or attractive, stimulating and functional. So placemaking -- I think everybody probably listening to this knows places where they don't particularly want to spend any time. You could argue that that's been a failure of placemaking. So placemaking's about making places that people want to be, want to gather, want to walk through and admire, as I said earlier, visually as well as functionally. So placemaking is a broad term but on the other hand I think most people know when they're in a place that hasn't been made properly.

  • 12:12:16

    NNAMDILiesel Fenner, what does placemaking mean to you?

  • 12:12:19

    FENNERWell, we frequently talk about creative placemaking in the present. And it's really about engaging the community and the development and the creation of arts and culture in a particular community. It can incorporate public art, urban design, architectural landscape, architectural work. It can reveal the hidden histories of a place revealing what might be invisible to the public in making that visible.

  • 12:12:50

    NNAMDIAgain, you can join the conversation by calling 800-433-8850. You can send email to Have you been involved in a public arts project? Tell us about your experience. You can send us an email to or you can send us a Tweet at kojoshow. Angela, whenever you've got numerous stakeholders involved in a project, especially a public one, you're going to have to answer one big question early on. Who decides? So how do you figure out who decides on the direction, the ultimate shape of a project?

  • 12:13:26

    ADAMSAnother great question. Well, fortunately I am ensconced in what we call the Arlington Way in Arlington which is all about civic engagement. And we are committed to making sure that our stakeholders tell us what they want from the very beginning. We're a community of planners so we have a lot of planning documents that talk about what we as a community want. And we even have a public art master plan that says specifically where public art should go.

  • 12:13:52

    NNAMDIWho decides, Liesel Fenner?

  • 12:13:55

    FENNERWell, there are art commissions. Arlington does have a public art commission that does review the design, the proposed works for Arlington specifically. But definitely every public art program has a community in process. And it's pivotal that individuals have input in what is going in their community. And we advocate for best practice that encourages the community.

  • 12:14:24

    NNAMDIWhat say you, Roger?

  • 12:14:26

    LEWISWell, I should preface this by saying in my profession if you put three architects in a room you get five opinions, maybe ten. I think what you're getting at, of course, is that there can be differences of opinion. You talked about eye-of-the-beholder phenomenon at the top of the show. There's no question that there are good debates always around what is art and where it should be and whether we should pay for it or whether the public should pay for it. We'll probably elaborate on that a little bit later.

  • 12:14:59

    LEWISBut I think the -- I think that it does require at some level some consensus. And I think what Arlington has been very successful at doing, they have a process which I think does a very good job of getting to that point of having consensus. It doesn't mean everybody agrees but certainly the art that I've seen in that -- in Arlington clearly is art that people -- a lot of people have embraced and appreciate. Is that a fair...

  • 12:15:29


  • 12:15:29

    ADAMSI'd like to think so. We have about 60 works of permanent public art since our program started. And we've got about 20 more on the boards. And every process is unique. We reach out into every pocket of the community that we work in and make sure that what we're doing is fulfilling community goals and expectations for public art.

  • 12:15:51

    NNAMDIAnd if people didn't like it Angela wouldn't be sitting here today. Here we go now to Rhea in Washington, D.C. Rhea, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:16:03

    RHEAHi. Thank you for taking my call and I'm really interested in this conversation. I actually -- myself and my colleague just gave a presentation at Design D.C., which is in the AIA event at the convention center today about this topic, about placemaking. And part of it was the role of art in our process. So I'm happy to hear about this. One thing that I think I've noticed as a D.C. resident is that I would love to see more spontaneous kinds of art happenings in the city rather than these larger grand federal interventions, although they're quite beautiful. I'm not sure that they really speak to the fabric of the city so much.

  • 12:16:44

    RHEAAnd then a comment is my favorite piece of public art is the graffiti wall across from the (word?) Metro Station. And I'll take my response off the air. Thank you.

  • 12:16:55

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Rhea. You give me the opportunity to mention that both Roger and I will be participating in different ways in that AIA convention today. Roger will be discussing his book and I'll be hosting a panel discussion at the convention center. Roger will be at the headquarters of the American Institute of Architecture at 5:00 this afternoon. I'll be there at 4:15. Now enough with the plugs. Here's Liesel Fenner.

  • 12:17:21

    FENNERI think in response to the caller's question, the -- we are seeing increased temporary installations in communities across the United States and in -- very much here in D.C. we certainly see street art and murals. Last year the D.C. commission on the arts and humanities had a five by five program that had five installations by five artists throughout the month of April in 2012. And it's coming again 2013 -- 2014, excuse me. So another plug there. But temporary public art definitely is the trend that we're seeing nationwide.

  • 12:18:01

    ADAMSThere's another -- actually a unique conversation that's happening here in Arlington -- or sorry, Washington, unique to Washington, which is this idea of temporary memorials. The National Capital Planning Commission working with the Commission of Fine Arts is actually piloting this idea of how to create temporary memorials. And so I will say that in relation to your caller's question, I think there's a lot of activity and a lot of thinking about spontaneity and art as it relates to Washington in particular.

  • 12:18:32

    NNAMDIBack to the telephone, here now is Joanne in Mount Rainier, Md. Joanne, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:18:41

    JOANNEHi. I don't know if many people know where Mount Rainier is. Mount Rainier is part of the Gateway Arts District which is in Prince George's County. It's Hyattsville, Mount Rainier and Brentwood and North Brentwood, which are right next to Northeast D.C. And...

  • 12:18:56

    NNAMDII guarantee you Roger knows it very well.

  • 12:18:58

    JOANNEOkay. Well, we actively support the arts. We have subsidized housing for artists and grants for art. And it's all over the area. There are murals on buildings and sculptures in front of public buildings. And it just makes living in the area so much more wonderful just -- you know, if the traffic is going slow, I don't even mind because there's always something wonderful to look at. And I just think it enhances the quality of my life having public art all over.

  • 12:19:32

    NNAMDIYou know, it underscores the point that Roger was making earlier in this discussion. I was going to ask him what role he thought that public art plays in communities, whether they're global capitals or suburban districts or rural enclaves. It would appear that Joanne may have answered that question.

  • 12:19:48

    LEWISWell, and I think the -- I was just at a reception yesterday. It was sponsored by the city of Dallas, which is promoting itself very ambitiously. And part of their promotion shows these artistic -- or artful, I should say, interventions in the city. There's no question that artful interventions can, in fact, contribute to economic development, economic activity. I mean, the poster child is probably (word?) you know, the city that no one ever went to or even heard of.

  • 12:20:19

    LEWISAnd they built a museum there, which is a work of architecture but in fact it's a giant sculpture. I mean, it's an extraordinary piece of work that transformed the life and culture of that city. That wouldn't necessarily work everywhere but I think that we -- one of the things that one can argue is that by having lots of art in the public realm -- in fact, people want to be in that public realm and use that. And those people come and eat lunch or they eat dinner and they buy things. So frankly, there's this kind of Chamber of Commerce argument that would support the notion of investing, if you will, publically and privately in art in the public realm.

  • 12:20:58

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. Thank you very much for your call, Joanne. When we come back, you too can join the conversation by calling 800-433-8850. You can send email to Is there a place in your neighborhood you think would benefit from a public art project? Tell us what you'd like to see there, 800-433-8850. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:23:10

    NNAMDIWelcome back. Roger Lewis joins us in studio to talk about placemaking through public art. He's an architect. He writes the Shaping the City column for the Washington Post. He's also professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland, College Park. Liesel Fenner is the public art program manager at Americans for the Arts in Washington, D.C. where she develops national programs and services advocating for excellence in public art and design. She's also a licensed landscape architect.

  • 12:23:35

    NNAMDIAnd Angela Anderson Adams is the public art administrator for Arlington Economic Development which aims to preserve and enhance an economically competitive and sustainable community and create exciting diverse and amenity-rich places. You can call us at 800-433-8850 with your comments or questions. Angela, Arlington just received an NEA Our Town grant that will help fund a project in North Town Square. Before you tell us what's coming, what's the history of that area?

  • 12:24:08

    ADAMSIt's a fascinating one actually. First I thought it corresponded with the disillusion of Freedman's Village in Arlington and -- just after the Civil War. But actually it goes back earlier. Free African Americans were purchasing land in that neighborhood and settled there obviously for quite some time. And it's also known as Green Valley to the longer term residents.

  • 12:24:33

    ADAMSIt's been going through some transformation. It's just a little north of Shirlington, which has had a lot of development, a lot of investment. And the county has been working to plan this revitalization effort really over the last ten, fifteen years, have always wanted to have public art included. And we were just sort of waiting for that right opportunity.

  • 12:24:57

    NNAMDINow that this grant has been awarded, what's coming to the area?

  • 12:25:01

    ADAMSWhat's coming is about two years of more civic engagement as it relates to public art. We are delighted to have Oakland, Calif.-based Walter Hood, who is unique in so many ways. I will take a moment and plug that he will be coming to the building museum tonight. I'll be introducing him, running the question and answers afterwards at 6:30 tonight at the National Building Museum. We're still welcoming walk-ins for the program. But he won a national design award not too long ago. Was here last week. I was gonna say...

  • 12:25:31

    NNAMDIYeah, I was about to ask, why choose a California-based landscape architect to do a Virginia project?

  • 12:25:34

    ADAMSWell, because it is complex work, I have to tell you. It is complex work to make a great civic realm. Walter was written about in Metropolis magazine in 2005. And when I read that article I knew he was the man for the job. So we've been waiting, planning, accruing funding, writing this grand and are just about ready to launch this two-year process.

  • 12:25:55

    NNAMDIIn the break we were talking about -- you were talking about the distinction between...

  • 12:26:00 and design.

  • 12:26:01

    NNAMDIAnd in what way does Walter Hood straddle that divide, if you will?

  • 12:26:05

    ADAMSHe's really amazing. And he's still developing this aspect of his studio. He says, I'm going to have an art side and a landscape design side. He's got degrees in both, which is really phenomenal. But it is a trend we're starting to see, especially with younger artists and architects and landscape designers and artists. They're realizing they need the full capacity of skill sets to really make a great civic realm.

  • 12:26:28

    NNAMDIRoger Lewis, I'd like to hear you on this same trend.

  • 12:26:31

    LEWISWell, I think the notion of a collaboration -- historically there's been a lot of art installed after everything else is done, you know, the -- something is brought in. And now I think there is a willingness and an understanding of the necessity of collaborating from the get go. They're really thinking about making -- placemaking as a collaborative process between landscape architects, architects, civil engineers -- I don't want to leave out the engineers who are very important -- and artists or sculptors or people who are not necessarily engineers or architects or landscape architects.

  • 12:27:13

    LEWISSo there is a whole -- in fact, this is affecting the whole profession of architecture also. I mean, there is -- we used to hand off things. Architects would come up with a concept, hand it off to an engineer, can you make this stand up and make sure it's comfortable in their bathroom fixtures. The fact is, that really doesn't work anymore. You have to work as a ream. You have to start working together from the outset.

  • 12:27:37


  • 12:27:38

    FENNERIt's really about the scale that one is working at. And landscape architects and architects are used to working at fairly large scales. And artists are frequently in particular sculptors working at the gallery scale. And here in public art we're looking at an urban realm that involves so much more beyond the white cube of the gallery. And artists that join design teams, again as Angela said, build a skill set in approaching larger scale infrastructure-based work and can really enhance a project beyond the original intention.

  • 12:28:16

    NNAMDIOn now to Jeremy who is in New York City. Jeremy, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:28:22

    JEREMYThanks, Kojo. So while the student at GW, actually I drove a mural on 22nd and F Street over some decrepit loss so public art is something I'm definitely passionate about. I was curious to know your thoughts on the role of nontraditional art though, art that's put up in public spaces through informal almost vigilante like waves popularized by the movie "Exit Through the Gift Shop," and artists such as (unintelligible) .

  • 12:28:53

    NNAMDIStarting with you, Angela.

  • 12:28:55

    ADAMSWell, we tolerate all kinds of creative expression in Arlington. We even enable some of the guerilla work, which of course takes away the guerilla aspect of it. But we participated last week in parking day, which is very much a grassroots exercise that a group out of San Francisco rebar came up with about ten years ago where you basically take over a parking space for the day and make it a creative expression. So we enable all kinds of art, and we tend to turn our head if we see something creative that isn't causing too much trouble.

  • 12:29:28

    NNAMDIYou know, when we discuss the legend of Cool Disco Dan here in Washington. D.C. I received an email from a former spokesperson from Metro who said, "Yes, now you say it's great but you cannot imagine the headaches that caused us when it was occurring." Today, Roger...

  • 12:29:43

    LEWISWell, you know, the word flash mob comes to mind, you know. I think the notion of having spontaneous public events or activities that produce art that isn't necessarily anything but temporary is not a new idea. I mean, the graffiti -- graffiti has been with us for how long? And not always in appropriate places. I remember looking at some of the trains in the New York subway system and thinking, this is probably not where we should be doing -- painting.

  • 12:30:19

    LEWISBut I think the -- I think what could happen that maybe isn't happening in a lot of communities is that it could be somewhat more actively encouraged by authorities but in certain -- at certain places at certain times. I don't think you want it happening everywhere.

  • 12:30:36

    NNAMDILiesel Fenner.

  • 12:30:38

    FENNERI think temporary guerilla-based work actually can be, for some people, their first introduction to art. You know, you're not paying a museum fee. You walk upon the sidewalk. Gee, that wasn't there yesterday and you have that ah-ha moment, what is this? And someone inquires more deeply about what is going on in their community.

  • 12:31:01

    NNAMDI800-433-8850 is the number to call. Thank you very much for your call, Jeremy. Are you more mindful of public art when you travel? What spots stick out in your mind, 800-433-8850? Or send email to Liesel, in planning these projects, I imagine questions of authenticity often arise, whether a work captures the spirit of a place, whether it's appropriate or practical, whether artists are local or not. Is every community or corner thereof well suited for public art projects?

  • 12:31:38

    FENNERI think any community can welcome public art. It's key that artists coming from outside the community be paired with local artists, with local community leaders, with local architects and landscape architects in the development of the work. It's not appropriate today to parachute a design into a community. We don't do that anymore. And to work collaboratively across state lines. It's about the sharing of ideas among communities.

  • 12:32:09

    NNAMDIWhat do you say to people who say, well, I love Arlington but this doesn't seem to belong in Arlington?

  • 12:32:16

    ADAMSI don't think we've ever had that problem, thankfully. But one of the things I wanted to say is we are committed, although we do hire your occasional California artist. We are committed to training local artists to do this work. We've partnered with the Washington Project for the Arts to develop training where we basically encourage artists to expand their knowledge of the design profession so that they can go about making more ambitious art.

  • 12:32:44

    NNAMDIRoger, I imagine that measuring the effects of these projects in a community is a difficult thing. Are the results primarily intangible or can you really measure?

  • 12:32:56

    LEWISOh, I think they're measurable results. I think a lot of them are also intangible. And I think a lot of what's happened in the past is that we haven't set up a system or a methodology for actually measuring the benefits or the impacts of interventions. And again, I always have to remind myself that there's the install art, whether it's spontaneous or commissioned versus the -- if you will, the artful environment, in fact, designed by someone.

  • 12:33:29

    LEWISWe just -- today James Van Sweden's obituary appeared in this morning's Washington Post. He was a landscape architect, well known, who really was among the best in the country in my opinion. And he was -- his compositions were in fact works of art. I mean, I would argue that the things he did with grasses and vegetation that was not traditional at all amounted to tableaus on the -- you know, on the ground plain. So there are lots of ways to make art including using things such as vegetation.

  • 12:34:07


  • 12:34:09

    ADAMSWell, I like to think that you look at public art as a tool in the toolbox and that it's judiciously applied. And that the quality of a space will speak for itself. I would say that one of our goals in Arlington public art is again to think carefully, work with the community and not put public art everywhere, but to pool our resources. We are one of the first public private ventures in the county. We're actually over half sponsored through private funds. So we're all about leveraging public resources to make great public spaces.

  • 12:34:48

    NNAMDIHere's Anthony in Washington, D.C. Anthony, your turn.

  • 12:34:53

    ANTHONYYeah, I definitely want to encourage more and more public art. I mean, I'm a child of the '70s and '80s in New York. And I used to love the train graffiti and things along those lines and still do. But I was wondering if there are any messages to encourage people, particularly non-artists, to participate in public art. So like when you're doing muraling, there's a lot of muraling that, you know, just kind of requires people to fill in the spaces. That's kind of labor, for lack of a better term, as opposed to art. And I was wondering if there are any programs out there that can help people get involved in that.

  • 12:35:24

    ANTHONYAnd I also wanted to know if anyone knows who the artist is who's been doing the duck-faced icons floating around? He's kind of a graffiti artist but, you know, he does stenciling and things like that of this duck-faced character.

  • 12:35:39

    NNAMDINo one around this table knows who he is but he's more than likely a listener to this broadcast. So he or she will probably call in at some point. But in answer to the question from Anthony (unintelligible) about how do you get the public to participate in public art?

  • 12:35:54

    FENNERWell, we encourage artists to approach their local arts agency. So in D.C. that would be the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, which has a very robust program that supports artists who have not been doing public art, how they can get their first public art commission. Americans for the Arts also has an annual convention. And we provide the tools and resources again for those artists who are new to the field to become competitive in getting their first Commission.

  • 12:36:24

    NNAMDIAny thoughts on that, Angela?

  • 12:36:27

    ADAMSI would say we never turn down a good idea. We've been approached by individual artists, communities that want a particular something sometimes they know, sometimes they don't know. And we're always opening -- open, I should say, to finding the resources to make good ideas happen.

  • 12:36:43


  • 12:36:44

    LEWISWell, I would add, Arlington and Rockville and Alexandria, I mean, communities also have community-based art institutions. I was the architect for the -- in Rockville for Visarts, which is the short name for the Metropolitan Center for Visual Arts. And that institution is dedicated to the notion of serving essentially the community. They have classes, they have programs, they do events, all of which are done and sponsored in the name of promoting art. And also helping artists accomplish what they might not otherwise accomplish if there were no institution.

  • 12:37:23

    NNAMDIHere now is Jordan in Arlington, Va. Hi, Jordan.

  • 12:37:28

    JORDANHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. I had a quick question for Roger and the panel. I've done a -- I'm a landscape architect. I've done a fair amount of travel in Europe and Australia. And one of the big things that always strikes me is those other Western cultures, unlike Americans, really seem to put a very strong value on design in a lot of their public projects. The one that comes to mind for me here is the new metro rail extension. It just seemed like a huge opportunity for designers to get involved.

  • 12:37:58

    JORDANAnd unfortunately a lot of it is an eyesore. And I was wondering if the panel could kind of comment on why Americans -- or what the difference between -- that they've observed between European attitudes towards design and public works versus Americans, which really tend to be budget-driven projects.

  • 12:38:16

    NNAMDIRoger probably has that fresh in his mind. Roger, go ahead, please.

  • 12:38:18

    LEWISWell, I spent 29 years writing Shaping the City column for the Washington post. And I don't think a year's gone by when I haven't written at least two or three columns about this -- the difference between American culture and other cultures, particularly European cultures. We have -- we do have a different attitude generally -- public attitude on the part of the citizens and voters and people who pay taxes, about design.

  • 12:38:46

    LEWISAnd also the first thing you have to remember is, you know, there's a history -- thousands of years of history. Western civilization's evolution in Europe whereas here in the United States we have a relatively short history. This -- we've probably talked about this, you and I, Kojo, many times. We could spend two hours doing a program about the difference between attitudes toward design here and Europe. I think your observation is correct. I do think there's more interest in commitment to good design in Europe and Australia.

  • 12:39:23

    LEWISI don't know that I have all the answers to how to fix it. I mean, I think having shows like this, having this -- this radio program is one of the things you need to do to help change that.

  • 12:39:36


  • 12:39:37

    FENNERI think we have seen a huge disinvestment in our nation's infrastructure. And that has -- as we can see in our crumbling sidewalks, the bridges that are falling down. And there's tremendous opportunity to rebuilt our infrastructure with the collaboration of artists and designers working together. I think here in Washington, looking at the 11th Street bridge, the opportunity to bring those artists in at the outset of design is -- can be replicated across the United States and compete with Europe.

  • 12:40:14

    NNAMDIAngela, when it comes to -- and, by the way, thank you very much for your call, Jordan. Angela, when it comes to arts funding, we often hear that federal money -- this NEA grant perhaps being the exception that proves the rule -- has gone away. Do you think that we'll see local communities get more involved in this space for that very reason?

  • 12:40:31

    ADAMSWell, I think one of the things -- and sort of piggybacking on what you all were just talking about -- I think it takes some creativity on the part of government workers to identify opportunities. I mean, the Our Town grant came about through a sustainable initiative working with four different departments across the federal government to make for more sustainable, more exciting spaces, places. And that's the, you know, genesis of the Our Town grant.

  • 12:40:58

    ADAMSCertainly, Arlington public arts approach is very much trying to figure out, what are the priorities, where are the resources going in Arlington, and how can we put art there? We have art in our water pollution control plant. We have art in our electrical substations. And we have art coming actually to a highway project on Arlington Boulevard, the first ever statewide.

  • 12:41:20

    NNAMDIGot to take a short break. If you have called, stay on the line. If not, the number's 800-433-8850. Does public art enhance your daily environment? Tell us where you see it and what you like or, well, don't like about it, 800-433-8850. You can send email to or shoot us a tweet, @kojoshow. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:43:27

    NNAMDIWe're talking about placemaking through public art. Joining us in studio is Liesel Fenner, public art program manager at Americans for the Arts in Washington, D.C. She developed national programs and services advocating for excellence in public art and design. She's also a licensed landscape architect. Roger Lewis is an architect.

  • 12:43:45

    NNAMDIHe writes the "Shaping the City" column for the Washington Post. He's also professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland, College Park. And Angela Anderson Adams is the public art administrator for Arlington Economic Development. It aims to preserve and enhance an economically competitive and sustainable community and create exciting, diverse, and amenity-rich places.

  • 12:44:08

    NNAMDIWe got an email from Sarah in Pennsylvania, who says, "I'm a 2-D artist. Where can I go to learn more about opportunities nationwide and regionally to create art for public spaces?" Andy advice on that, Liesel Fenner?

  • 12:44:22

    FENNERYes. Do check out our website,, and just log on to the public art network, and we'd be happy to help.

  • 12:44:32

    NNAMDIWe also got an email from Vanessa -- oh, a tweet from Vanessa who says, "Love the mural at 17th and Champlain. It served as the backdrop for our health movement's photo shoot." That gives me the opportunity, Liesel, to ask you to talk about other local projects.

  • 12:44:49

    FENNERWell, there are quite a few around the District. And a year ago, I got involved in the D.C. Office of Planning. They received an art place grant to dovetail on a master plan that they were developing for the 14th Street-Heights area. It's beyond Columbia Heights. And, again, they brought in John Bela of Rebar, who'd started the parking day installations.

  • 12:45:16

    FENNERAnd the community got involved in creating temporary artworks along 14th Street, such as benches that could be built and collapsed in all of two minutes, swings, planters, all these street side amenities that suddenly gave visibility to an area that you just frequently drove through quite quickly but is probably the next area of major growth in the city. And the city is looking very carefully at how that community will grow and change but retain the residents that live there.

  • 12:45:53

    NNAMDIOn to the telephones again. Here now is Rachel in Salisbury, Md. Rachel, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:46:01

    RACHELHi. Thanks for taking my call. This is a great topic. I just wanted to put in a plug for airport art. I think airports are these subliminal spaces that are the perfect place to reach people when they're sort of neither here nor there, and you can connect with them in a special way. And there's an installation that's been there a long time in the Atlanta Airport down in the tunnel between the T-gates and Terminal A that has all the Zimbabwean sculpture that I really love.

  • 12:46:38


  • 12:46:38

    FENNERThere is -- there are so many airports nationwide that welcome us by unique artworks. When you get off the gate and you suddenly realize, oh, I'm in Atlanta, or I'm in Baltimore, I've arrived in D.C. because of the artwork that told you where you are. And I think that we could see more art happen in airports nationwide. But it is definitely a component of travel and tourism that's very important today.

  • 12:47:09

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Rachel. We move on now to Lila in Reston, Va. Lila, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:47:19

    LILAHi, Kojo. Thanks for taking my call. I just wanted to say hello to Liesel and Angela and Roger. Reston benefited from all of their involvement in the creation of a public art master plan for Reston and the establishment of the initiative for public art in Reston. And it's been...

  • 12:47:38

    NNAMDISo you're saying that what I have in this studio are a bunch of co-conspirators.

  • 12:47:42

    LILAAbsolutely. Absolutely with willing converts in Reston, Va. We're going to be celebrating our public art master plan for Reston's fifth anniversary this December. And the community has really embraced the notion of public art and how many wonderful places it can be. It's part of Reston's DNA. And it's tradition.

  • 12:48:07

    LILAAnd it's been phenomenally successful to have the major civic organizations partner in the initiative for public art. And we've done some terrific projects, a mosaic at the Glade underpass and public art fountain project at one of our pools. And we're going to see the installation of a Mary Ann Mears sculpture at the Gateway area of the Hyatt Regency at Reston Town Center in the late fall here.

  • 12:48:43

    NNAMDII'm glad you're bringing all of this up because it relates to one point that you were making earlier, Roger, about how relatively young our society is compared to the cultures of Europe. But it raises the question of, how does one get the process started to have people in a community understand and appreciate public art, which is precisely what seems to have happened in Reston?

  • 12:49:05

    LEWISWell, I think it -- again, it only starts with some individuals and people in the community who realize that this is something they need, and they take steps to make it happen. I think that's -- I think it always starts as a grassroots movement.

  • 12:49:19

    NNAMDIAnd, Lila, thank you very much for sharing that with us and for your call. Angela, we got a tweet from Matt who says, "Public art needs to move toward natural elements, plants and moving water." What do you think?

  • 12:49:34

    ADAMSWell, I like to think that that's where we partner with landscape architects to make a really great natural setting for art. I do think, though, sometimes art is appropriate to mimic that. We have some beautiful tree-like forms coming to Long Bridge Park as part of the facility's second phase with the new aquatics center that's coming.

  • 12:49:59

    ADAMSAnd Doug Hollis and his wife and I have created an incredible cloud-emitting form that are tree-like in their form, and they're actually nestled -- having worked with a landscape architect -- in a beautiful little grove. It's actually called Cloud Grove. So I think we do see that in public art from time to time.

  • 12:50:20

    NNAMDIAnd, Liesel, you are a landscape architect. What do you say?

  • 12:50:24

    FENNERYes. I encourage landscape architects and artists to collaborate in so many works that can actually heal and improve a space. We have a lot of artists that are responding to environmental issues, creating installations that can improve the water quality, for example, or address storm water drainage, which is a rising issue nationwide. I would suggest the caller check out which has an array of artists that are responding to the environment.

  • 12:51:00

    NNAMDIThere you go, Matt. Roger?

  • 12:51:01

    LEWISWell, I was just going to mention Canal Park which has recently opened down southeast, very -- not far from the Naval...

  • 12:51:13

    NNAMDINavy Yard.

  • 12:51:13

    LEWISNavy Yard. But Canal Park, I think, exemplifies what you're talking about. And it's a collaborative effort of architects and landscape architects. But it's very much intended to enable and accommodate spontaneous or community-based art events. In fact, I think, if you go look at the design, it's really a space where, even without any artists there, I think in the column, I referred to it as a kind of tableau on the ground.

  • 12:51:45

    LEWISAgain, you can -- if you get up in the air and look at it, it really is a bow of relief in a sense on the ground. So it's a great space. I think it's a great success. And part of its success is that the rain gardens and the swales intended in fact to contribute to water quality. They're collecting water off-site. They're collecting storm water that's not just from the park but from adjacent sites.

  • 12:52:06

    NNAMDI800-433-8850. Is there a place in your neighborhood you think would benefit from a public art project? Tell us what you'd like to see there. Here is Brad in Fairfax, Va. Brad, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:52:20

    BRADWell, I've enjoyed Roger Lewis' columns for many, many years -- and this doesn't really pertain to art specifically -- but there was a column in the Post two or three months ago, not by him but by somebody else. And the topic was incrementalism and addressing planning and transportation planning. And I would contend that, I think, Arlington and D.C. and Alexandria have done better jobs than Fairfax County.

  • 12:52:53

    BRADI think that they hire a lot of planners, but the planning has not been that great. The board of supervisors would contend that it's all due to transportation funding, and I would say a lot of it has to do with land use planning. And so I would love to see a column by Mr. Lewis addressing that topic.

  • 12:53:18

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call, Brad. I'll start with you, Liesel, because the art world is not one that those outside of it necessarily associate with planning and with protocols. How important is it for communities considering a public art project to have a process, a structure that helps to generate that project?

  • 12:53:38

    FENNERAbsolutely. And that usually comes through the local arts agency or planning department of that community. And I'll actually note for the caller that the Fairfax County Art Commission did get an Our Town grant just like Arlington, and they will be looking closely at Tysons Corner, which we all know is a challenging place to get through and experience. And so they will bring in an artist to work with the landscape architects and architects in revisioning a portion of the -- well, can I say quagmire that we know as Tysons?

  • 12:54:14

    NNAMDIAnd, Angela.

  • 12:54:16

    ADAMSWell, I like the term incrementalism, Roger -- doesn't surprise me you came up with it. It also reminds me of another term I've been thinking about, of tactical urbanism, which is where communities really test things out in inexpensive ways. We've seen that a lot in New York City under the Bloomberg Administration here, with OP, also Office of Planning. And in Arlington, we're having our first pop-up park coming to the back of the Korean Embassy between Wilson Boulevard and Clarendon Boulevard. And we're working with the community to figure out what that should look like.

  • 12:54:49

    NNAMDIRoger, is there sometimes a bit of a culture clash here? Is it tough on occasion for government leaders or heads of county organizations to turn over some or a lot of control to more creative types?

  • 12:55:04

    LEWISOh, I think that varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. I mean, I think there are some places where you get -- you have real visionary leadership. And there are some places, frankly -- I've worked in a couple of them -- where the leadership is not so visionary, and particularly where there's some fiscal constraints.

  • 12:55:21

    LEWISI mean, one of the things that gets in the way is our budgets, our public budgets, and there's no -- I've been involved in some projects that didn't go forward because the money wasn't there, where projects that involved investment -- public sector investment. I don't think there's a one-size-fits-all description at all. I think it depends on the community. Again, we're sitting here today talking about communities that have been fairly proactive and supportive of the notion of making the environment artfully composed and a place where art can thrive.

  • 12:55:58

    NNAMDIHere now, Julia in Silver Spring, Md. Julia, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:56:02

    JULIAHi, Kojo. Thanks for this topic. It's just really a great one. I just had a question. I you're an artist, how do you get your artwork considered for public art? Maybe just narrowly focus the question on Silver Spring.

  • 12:56:21

    NNAMDISay the last part again -- to focus on Silver Spring?

  • 12:56:24

    JULIAYeah. I don't want to make it too broad. But how does an artist get her art...

  • 12:56:28

    NNAMDIWell, if it's a general question, allow me to have Liesel Fenner answer.

  • 12:56:32

    FENNERRight. Well, we would encourage you to submit your work. Certainly, if you have not placed work in the public realm, as I mentioned earlier, do approach your local arts agency to see if they have a public art program. Review your background work, your portfolio with those professionals to see how you could enter into a public art competition. And do check out our website,, public art network. And we have a lot of information for artists online. And don't hesitate to call me.

  • 12:57:05

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. And I don't know -- we don't have a lot of time, Randy in Alexandria. But if you could make your question in 30 seconds or less, we can get an answer.

  • 12:57:15

    RANDYOh, this is -- the question I really called in with was quite long, but maybe I'll give you a shorter one instead that fits in as a conclusion. Is there some sort of guide or map of art sites around Washington for those who might not be very familiar?

  • 12:57:32

    NNAMDILiesel Fenner.

  • 12:57:33

    FENNERI would recommend that you check out the website,, which actually has public art collections across the country. And new collections are being uploaded as we speak, so do check out D.C.'s collection on culturenow.

  • 12:57:47

    NNAMDIRandy, thank you for your call. Liesel Fenner's the public art program manager at Americans for the Arts in Washington, D.C. Liesel, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:57:55

    FENNERThank you, Kojo.

  • 12:57:56

    NNAMDIAngela Anderson Adams is the public art administrator for Arlington Economic Development. Angela, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:58:03

    ADAMSPleasure. Thank you.

  • 12:58:04

    NNAMDIRoger Lewis is a regular guest. He is an architect. He writes the "Shaping the City" column for the Washington Post and is professor emeritus of architecture at the University of Maryland, College Park. Good to see you back, Roger.

  • 12:58:16

    LEWISFeeling is mutual. Thank you again.

  • 12:58:18

    NNAMDIAnd thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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