Public art in Van Ness aims to evoke landscape, history

The first “Canopy” installation will occupy space outside 4250 Connecticut Ave. NW. (Rendering courtesy of After Architecture)

Public art made from distinctive brass pillars will find its spot on Van Ness sidewalks later this year, an attempt to create a gathering point for pedestrians on Connecticut Avenue NW.

Van Ness Main Street is leading the drive to improve the commercial corridor streetscape after the community suggested the need for better place making.

“One of the things the community kept saying was that gathering places are really important,” said Theresa Cameron, director of Van Ness Main Streets.

The group settled on a Virginia-based architecture firm, which has designed “Canopy,” inspired by the area’s leafy landscape. Three such installations are planned, contingent on a successful fundraising drive, according to Cameron. The first one is set to begin construction outside of 4250 Connecticut Ave. NW in July, with the work expected to take about nine months.

Other project sites are located near the intersections of Albemarle Street and Van Ness Street. The brass installations include seating and will be lit at night.

“A forest of folded brass pillars populates the sidewalks of Connecticut Avenue, laying an infrastructure for a bustling street life that brings together the area’s various populations,” reads a description on the website of the design firm, After Architecture. “The trunks double as historic markers, with inscriptions that call out points of interest. … Clusters of columns form seating areas, while individual columns serve as wayfinding signage.”

Van Ness Main Street has applied for a $35,000 grant from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3F (Forest Hills, North Cleveland Park, Van Ness) as its start for fundraising. Each installation costs roughly $75,000, and fundraising will continue throughout the year, according to Cameron. ANC 3F could vote on the grant at its June meeting. Most commissioners supported the project at their May 15 meeting but wanted more details on fundraising, which Cameron said is just getting underway.

“We don’t have a complete fundraising plan because we wanted to wait and meet with the ANC and then start moving forward,” Cameron said.

The search for designs began with eight artists and winnowed down to three. The design committee of the Main Street group settled on After Architecture, which produced “Canopy” after researching the neighborhood’s past a century back.

“I think a lot of people are going to be interested in this because Van Ness … has people who have really high expectations and really like projects that are well thought out,” Cameron told ANC 3F. “We worked really hard to make this project as community-driven as possible.”