Public Art in Norfolk

Norfolk public art educates, beautifies, and inspires residents and visitors 

The Navigator. Sculpture. Norfolk International Airport. 
Sgt William H. Carney. Sculpture. Elmwood Cemetery. 
The Flame of Liberty. Sculpture. City Hall Plaza. 

Transforming landscapes, questioning assumptions, and expressing community values

For over 100 years, art has had a prominent role in telling the story of the City of Norfolk in public places. Whether it be through murals, sculptures, mosaics, or other mediums, public art has provided all generations in the City of Norfolk with reminders of the past and present as guides for the future.
In 2006, Norfolk City Council formally recognized the importance of public art with the passing of an ordinance to establish the Public Arts Commission. The Commission established Norfolk Arts, a formal, city funded entity responsible for enhancing public art in the City of Norfolk. Karen Rudd is the Manager of Norfolk Arts.

Why this data matters

The Public Art dataset was added to Norfolk Open Data Portal in 2019. It includes art that is part of Norfolk Arts, as well as art in public locations commissioned through other entities. Residents can interact with the data to discover more information about the artwork, such as artist, category, budget, location, and date. 
Public art is commissioned through a community-involved process. “A group of stakeholders, including community representatives, artists, architects, and users of the specific site are brought together to decide the criteria for the artwork, develop a call to artists, review submissions, select the artist and then work through the design process,” says Karen Rudd. “The process of bringing a new work of public art into the city is inclusive and democratic, inviting citizens to have their voices heard.”

Public Art by Location

This map provides a visualization of the locations of art within the public art dataset. The legend tab in the right corner can be used to identify the type of art. 
The data shows that the downtown area and NEON District has a high concentration of art, while many neighborhoods have individual pieces that highlight their unique, individual character.
"Citizens are invited to experience an enormous blue heron made of recycled airplanes on their way home from the airport or recycled art signs from old Norfolk businesses in the Main Street Parking Garage, hunt for the time capsule at the stainless steel tree in Munson Park, skateboard under art trees at the Northside Skate Park, take their picture in front of a life-size elephant made of thousands of aluminum butterflies at the Virginia Zoo, or dance under the light and sounds of an enormous vase of stainless steel flowers," says Rudd.
"Based on estimated traffic counts, Norfolk citizens have 400,000 opportunities to experience public art firsthand every day for free -- approximately 1,000 times the audience visiting art galleries, museums and theaters combined."

Public Art by Category

When organized by category, the data shows that the majority of public art in Norfolk is in the form of sculptures. 
Referring to the diverse categories of art, Rudd explains, "today there are over 100 very different artworks all over Norfolk created through the original Public Art ordinance."

A Lasting Impact

Public art continues to be a defining feature of the City of Norfolk. The Public Arts dataset is updated annually to reflect changes and additions.
"Council knew that public art had the power to energize our public spaces, arouse our thinking and transform the places where we live, work, and play into more welcoming, beautiful, and interactive communities," says Rudd. "While they couldn’t imagine what the future might hold, they hoped it would be filled with public art."

Pictured: MetalMatisse. Sculpture. Macarthur Square. 

Additional Information

To view the Public Art dataset on the City of Norfolk's Open Data Portal, click here.
The public art program is staffed by Norfolk Arts which also manages the Offsite Gallery in MacArthur Center, an art grant program, and a variety of community art programs. For more information on Norfolk Arts and the Public Art Program please visit
Pictured: Life Drawing: Phoenix Rising. Mural. Richard Bowling Elementary.