Where West Marshall meets Brook Road, a new pedestrian plaza is coming — and with local organizations like Gallery5, Venture Richmond, Big Secret, and more behind it, it’s set to brighten up the intersection through art.
The already-colorful City of Richmond is about to get another rainbow upgrade, thanks to a grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies Asphalt Art Initiative. After 200 cities applied for the grant, one of the sixteen $25,000 grants was jointly awarded to both Venture Richmond and City of Richmond Public Art Commission. The grant supports cities that use art to improve community safety, and creates further public engagement.
Richmond’s newest project will include the intersection of West Marshall Street and Brook Road in the Arts District/Jackson Ward neighborhood. The grant will help fund a new pedestrian plaza, a parklet, and an intersection mural. The list of partners on the project is still growing, but so far includes the City of Richmond, Gallery5, Venture Richmond, Big Secret, ART 180, Vanderbilt Properties, and Walter Parks Architects. ART 180 is in charge of coordinating the public art components of the project, and Walter Parks Architects is responsible for providing in-kind design services.
“Collectively, these elements build upon the momentum of the neighborhood as the nexus of the Arts District, and enhance the route into Jackson Ward anchored by the Maggie Lena Walker Memorial Plaza a block away,” said Susan Glasser, Public Art Coordinator for the City of Richmond. “On a practical level, the project aspires to increase pedestrian traffic by enhancing safety and street life, to create a revitalized and beautified environment in an underutilized public space, and to promote civic engagement in the neighborhood.”
Venture Richmond is also donating $5,000 to the project that will come from the organization’s event Park(ing) Day design/build competition, hosted last September. Venture Richmond’s overall mission is to ensure that the City of Richmond focuses on enhanced vitality of Richmond, the downtown area, and Riverfront, along with enhancing property management services. Together with the city’s Public Art Commission, which invests in local artists to improve economic and cultural identity growth, the organization hopes to create a new destination from an existing intersection. It will not only brighten the busy section, but enhance its functionality.
“It’s really exciting to see a lot of hard work by the community rewarded by a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, to make changes to that intersection that make it safer and more attractive to the residents and businesses in the area,” said Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Riverfront and Downtown Placemaking for Venture Richmond. “In the age of Covid-19, it’s more important than ever that we design public spaces like this for people to safely gather and make social connections.”
Bloomberg Philanthropies’ main initiative is to invest in cities around the world, ensuring that there is a good focus on the arts, education, public health, and government innovation among other areas. In 2019, Michael R. Bloomberg’s Bloomberg Philanthropies — which includes all of his giving along with personal philanthropy, foundation, and Bloomberg Associates — donated $3.3 billion.
The City of Richmond is eager to hear what the public and Richmond locals want out of this project, and have made a survey for volunteers to record their opinions. The City hopes to start off its public engagement process with a bang, ensuring that the voices of locals are heard, and that the project will not impinge too much on the lives of those living around the intersection. Community members are highly encouraged to take the survey, if possible, so city officials can gather as much information as possible for a swift, smooth project timeline.
Richmond’s newest project of the three conceptual elements hopes to further engage the community in local art, and will create a more functional intersection within the popular public intersection.