On Oct. 23, seven semifinalists were announced for a Council on Virginia Tech History-sponsored call for public art highlighting the ways historically marginalized communities have shaped and will continue to shape the university.

The council’s Public Art Committee initiated the “Understanding Our Complicated Past and Reconnecting with Our Layered Histories: An International Ideas Competition” as part of the council’s efforts to produce holistic projects and programming about the university’s history as its sesquicentennial approaches in 2022.

A cross-disciplinary selection committee of university community subject-matter experts identified the semifinalists.

“We appreciated the time, effort, and thought contributed by all artists who submitted proposals to this important call for public art,” said C.L. Bohannon, chair of the Council on Virginia Tech History Public Art Committee and associate director of the School of Architecture + Design. “Over the past few weeks, the Selection Committee reviewed art proposals from across the globe virtually.”

The majority of the semifinalists’ proposals were sculptural and one submission incorporated textiles for the public art, which will be located at Solitude and the Fraction Family House.

“With a site on the National Register of Historic Places, it was interesting to see a thematic thread woven throughout many of the submissions that touched on the subject of shelter and structure. Through an architect’s lens, this seemed to lend even more gravity to our chosen themes. I’m excited to see what the next round brings as the artists explore those themes deeply and pair them with contextual issues, such as siting, scale, and physical relationship to the existing historic structures,” said Assistant Vice President for Planning and University Architect Liza Morris, a member of the Selection Committee.

Selected artwork reflected requirements that included:

  • Virginia Tech communities’ history, diversity, and cultural profiles.

  • The intersecting relationship and influences from white, Black, and Native American presences.

  • The contribution to the aesthetic beauty of the area, including elements of the Duck Pond, buildings, and landscape.

Moving forward, the semifinalists will each be awarded an honorarium and invited to further develop their proposals and cost estimates for finalist selection.

“The selection committee is looking for projects that reflect the diverse perspectives and cultures – past, present, and future – that are part of Virginia Tech’s foundation, particularly on this historic site,” said Selection Committee member Ruth Waalkes, associate provost for the arts, and executive director of the Moss Arts Center.

The winning public art proposals to be created on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus will be announced in December 2020.

“This is a significant opportunity for public art on campus, and we hope the chosen work will spark conversation and inspire our students and community for many years to come,” said Waalkes.