Public Art Helps Build New Community in White Flint

Public Art Helps Build New Community in White Flint

One of the many innovative features of the new White Flint Sector Plan, approved yesterday by the Montgomery County Council, is a new focus on integrating art into public life in the new White Flint. Now it appears that White Flint will benefit from significant artistic projects, rather than a slap-dash afterthought, as in many projects.

Friends of White Flint has long championed the inclusion of art in White Flint, teaming with the late Jean Cryor during the Planning Board discussions of the vision for White Flint. Although much of the discussion during the development of the Plan focussed on performing arts, FoWF promoted fine arts and public presentations. The effort had a good reception, as those working on the new White Flint recognized the value of including cultural elements, such as sculpture and decorative arts, in a New Urbanism context.  Even prominent opponents of the Plan, such as Paula Bienenfeld from the Luxmanor community, found common ground in supporting art in White Flint.

And the effort paid off:  The Plan offers significant incentives to developers who incorporate public art, and an article in today’s Gazette newspaper highlights some of the plans already underway to include new artistic works. You can find the Gazette story here:

One of the important element in making public art a part of a community is how that art is integrated into projects and community events. That’s why some of Montgomery County’s recent public art projects have fallen flat; they appear to be haphazard attempts to grab artworks and plunk them down somewhere visible, instead of viewing the art as a part of the architecture and streetscape for a given area. It’s not enough to just have “art”; to make an impression, the art needs to be part of a holistic view of a project’s design and character.

Some of the art bound for White Flint includes a work by noted artist James Sanborn of Washington, D.C. The Gazette describes the planned outdoor sculpture: “an 8-foot high, 4-foot wide bronze cylinder perforated with waterjet cut text. Inside, the cylinder will have a pinpoint light source, while outside it will be surrounded by a red granite text ring. During the day, the texts can be seen on the cylinder or from the surface of nearby pavement. At night, the interior light will project the text over a wide area. Near the sculpture will be a waterfall bordered by a white granite “river of stone” and a polished red granite oval ring.”

Barnaby Zall (for a sampling of my paintings, see

Barnaby Zall


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