Marly McFly paintingFigure 1 Public Artist Marly McFly








(Oakton, VA) - Public Art serves as a powerful tool that welcomes people to visit, engage, and enjoy space in a unique way. Leaders across the country recognize the power of public art to break down cultural barriers and advance their missions in housing, workforce, transportation, health, and the environment.

The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia explored this revitalization of public space through community collaboration, and public art when it presented “Public Art and Placemaking” at its September Innovation Breakfast Series event. 

Creative placemaking puts an emphasis on a design which cultivates the social experience in the built environment. Initiatives like the Department of Play, a Boston-based collective that creates temporary play zones in public spaces have pioneered placemaking through public art by utilizing temporary installations to engage residents, encourage interaction, and grow the community.

“We focus on the social magic that can happen in a temporary setting when it comes to creative placemaking’ said keynote speaker Katarzyna Balug, Co-founder of the Department of Play. ‘Our temporary play zones are experimental research vessels

Balug, also led a panel discussion on the impact public art can have on community building. Panelists included Deirdre Ehlen MacWilliams, Public Art Project Manager, Arlington Arts; Holly Koons, Executive

Director, Arlington Arts Center; Lisa Mariam, Director of Grants and Services, ARTSFairfax; Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, Virginia House of Delegates, 41st District; and D.C.-area public artist Marly McFly

“While the art world concentrates on buying or selling art on walls for a few, for me and my peers we want to make art accessible to everyone,” said Marly McFly, Public Artist. “We want to use art to uplift the community.”

"Public art can play a vital role in establishing and building community character," said Deirdre Ehlen MacWilliams, Public Art Project Manager, Arlington Arts.

"Healthy cities boast a quality of life that helps attract and retain talent, businesses, industry, as well as cultural vibrancy," said Holly Koons, Executive Director, Arlington Arts Center.

“Public art is an important way to enhance our public spaces, deepening and enriching our shared community experience,” said Lisa Mariam, Director of Grants and Services, ARTSFairfax.

Temporary and permanent art adds an element of playfulness, which allows people to connect and remember a place in a personal way. It assists in the creation of an identity for a community by expressing current issues, celebrating cultural heritage, and inspire the future. Public art also has the potential to visually connect civic spaces, inspire walkable communities and positively influence where we live, work, educate, and play. 

“Art has this amazing capacity to help people re-imagine the place they live,” said Eileen Ellsworth, President, and CEO at Community Foundation for Northern Virginia.

Last year, the Community Foundation launch the Ross-Roberts Fund for the Arts – a discretionary fund that celebrates, promotes and supports the arts in Northern Virginia. Its goals are to build a world-class, dynamic, vibrant arts, and culture sector, increase understanding of the central and critical role of the arts in healthy communities and activate support for the arts. Our ability to fund in this arena is only possible thanks to Mr. Roberts.

This fund will be supporting a public art project at the Arlington Arts Center, which is currently accepting proposals from artists to prepare and install on its lawn in the Spring of 2020. Applications are due by October 21st and available here.

We are looking forward to continuing to explore public art’s role in helping to build a community here in Northern Virginia that works for everyone.

Slides from Katarzyna Balug’s keynote presentation as well as the panel discussion are also available.

About Innovation Breakfast Series
The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia hosts the Innovation Breakfast Series to bring a fresh perspective on the challenges and opportunities facing our region and the role that innovation and philanthropy can play in addressing them.