Something new and colorful and about 200 feet long is coming to Vienna: A mural will soon be created on the back wall of the Vienna Shopping Center, visible as you travel down Cottage Street.
Artists Eleanor Doughty, a Vienna native who now lives in Seattle, and Emily Herr, who lives in Richmond, plan to start work on the mural, an overview of Town buildings and area landmarks, beginning November 5 and expect that the project will take up to two weeks, depending on weather, to complete.
Student-volunteers from James Madison High School will work alongside the artists from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 2:30-6 p.m. the weekend of November 9-11. Students interested in helping out with the mural, even if only available for an hour or two, should contact Doughty at email@example.com.
The town’s newest public art project is being funded by Rappaport, owners of the shopping center at 180 Maple Avenue. “We love the mural,” says Tiffany Jones, marketing representative for the Vienna Shopping Center. “We love the brightness and color that it’s going to add to the shopping center.
“Vienna Shopping Center is proud to be a vital part of Vienna,” she adds, “and we wanted to celebrate the community in a really fun way.”
The artists, who are collaborating on their third community mural together, expect to begin by color blocking wall areas and then defining mural details from there. “The first few days, it will just look like a big stripe of yellow and a big stripe of blue, just blobs,” says Herr. “The first part is the most exciting because that’s where the changes happen the fastest. The middle part moves a lot slower as we get into the detail.”
The painting itself actually accounts for only about 10 percent of the project, the artists note. “Once you get to the wall and start, it’s just a matter of executing the process well,” says Herr, who is a full-time muralist.
The more challenging – and time-consuming – aspects include coming up with the concept and getting it accepted, which Doughty handled, and coordinating the logistics (ordering materials, obtaining insurance, renting equipment, lining up labor, etc.), which Herr has managed.
An illustrator, Doughty, who met Herr in 2009 when they both were art students attending Virginia Commonwealth University, was “on the fence” about submitting earlier this year a proposal to the Vienna Public Art Commission for the mural, after experiencing a streak of rejected proposals. “My mom encouraged me to just do it anyway,” she says. “I’m glad that I did. It’s awesome to be able to leave a big mark on the Town that I grew up in.”
Doughty’s design is essentially a map of the Vienna landscape that illustrates significant Town landmarks as well as outlying points of interest. “I was trying to figure out a way to join everything together,” she says, “and settled on using the W&OD trail that goes through Town. It provides a great centerpiece for the Town.”
Public art pieces like the mural that is being created in Vienna help remind people of their surroundings and the beauty that sometimes gets ignored due to familiarity, Doughty says. “The best public art,” adds Herr, “reflects the community it’s in. We hope that the Vienna community sees itself reflected in the mural, and that it connects them to their own lives and experiences. It’s really important for a community to see itself in art.”