the gallery outside

Public Art. What do you think?

This is the first time since I began working at the Greater Reston Arts Center that our exhibition space includes the park fronting the gallery.  It’s exciting and engaging and offers a new opportunity for us as an arts center to interact with our neighbors.  Now, people don’t have to consciously choose to visit the gallery to experience an exhibition.  They can be passive culture consumers while strolling by, eating lunch under a tree, texting from a park bench, or tending children playing in the fountain.  I watch from my office window as people of all ages examine the works by Mike Shaffer and silently pray that the children will not decide to climb while no one is watching.  As an educator, I wonder what people are thinking about when they linger in front of one of the sculptures.  Do they read the names and smile when they look anew at Earthquake?  Does the Monument to Sun and Stars conjure images of other monuments downtown? Do the kids wonder what the view would be like from the top of one of the sculptures?

I’m looking forward to the upcoming panel discussion at GRACE on July 22 at 7:30 when some of these questions might be raised by the public.  I’m also interested in what the panelists will have to say regarding the primary question raised by Dale Lanzone, the moderator, who asked, “public art: aquisition or exhibition?”  I like temporary public art.  The works that engage and arouse curiosity.  Works that come, have an impact, and then go.  I’ve loved the installation of Botero’s monumental sculptures in downtown DC, how they changed the cityscape for a while, enthused visitors, and then were gone.  I walked through the Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s gates in New York’s Central Park and enjoyed saying that I witnessed it and was a part of it, but now it’s gone.  It was special to be there.  Somehow, permanent sculpture doesn’t have the same sense of immediacy for me.

Here are the details on the upcoming panel discussion.  Join me for what should be a most enlightening discussion.

The Gallery Outside: Acquisition or Exhibition?

Moderated by Dale Lanzone, President, International Public Art Marlborough

July 22, 7:30pm, Greater Reston Arts Center


This program is cosponsored by the Greater Reston Arts Center, Initiative for Public Art – Reston, and The Washington Sculptors Group.

Dale Lanzone will moderate the evening’s discussion on the use of public spaces for temporary art exhibitions, in his words, “taking the museum out of doors.”  To name just a few, cities such as New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Paris, Rome, Venice, and Madrid, support ongoing programs that both promote and sponsor temporary art exhibitions in public places.  Panelists will discuss the ways, means, and benefits of such exhibitions and what this might mean to the local art scene in Northern Virginia.

Panelists include:

Susan Harrison, Manager, Art in Architecture Program, United States General Services Administration

Mike Shaffer, painter, sculptor, and conceptual artist. He is president of the Washington Sculptors Group and board chairman of the Hyattstown Mill Arts Project, a nonprofit arts and cultural center in Montgomery County Maryland.

Welmoed Laanstra, an independent curator, co-curator of Street Scene (, and Public Art Projects Curator for Arlington County, Virginia

Dale Martin Lanzone is currently the president of International Public Art Marlborough, one of the world’s leading contemporary art galleries. Over the past 12 years, Mr. Lanzone has developed and managed many large-scale, commissioned public art projects with a wide range of artists.

Suzi Guardia, Director of Education


3 thoughts on “the gallery outside

  1. As a Reston Town Center resident I was dismayed at the installation of these sculptures. Their strident colors and clumsy shapes do attract (and most likely frustrate) toddlers, but they detract from the beauty and grace of the park setting and plantings.

    The elegant steel sculptures that are also displayed in the park are lovely.

    I hope that the latest additions will be removed soon.

    1. Dear Karen,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the sculptures in the park. We always hope that our exhibitions elicit a dialogue about issues in contemporary art. Although you do not like the works, I’m glad that you took the time to write to us in a thoughtful manner. Obviously, we all have wildly varying ideas about what constitutes “good” contemporary art and that is why it so important to talk about it.

      The sculptures are temporary and will leave the park this fall. They were included in gaps, a juried exhibition chosen by the Curator for Modern and Contemporary Art at The Phillips Collection and co-sponsored by Initiative for Public Art- Reston and the Washington Sculptors Group. In July we hosted a lively discussion, open to the public, with Vesela Sretenovic, the curator. Also in July, we held a well-attended public symposium on “The Gallery Outside: Acquisition or Exhibition?” with four public arts professionals. These programs were designed for community members who want to have a serious conversation about art today.

      I hope you’ll join us for some of our upcoming programs and discussions this fall. They are listed on our website at and on other areas of this blog.

      Best wishes,


      Joanne Bauer, Exhibitions Director

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