Sep 12, 2023 - News

Ashland is embracing public art as part of a new push

The Trask mural in downtown Ashland. Image: Courtesy of the Town of Ashland

The sleepy, train-centric town 15 miles north of Richmond is going all in on public art.

Driving the news: Last week, the Ashland Town Council accepted eight works from Belgian-born, Congo-raised and longtime Ashland-based artist Charles Sthreshley as part of its growing commitment to public art.

Ashland's art initiative started a decade ago with the town's creation of an Arts & Culture District but kicked into high gear this year with the appointment of its first Public Art Commission.

Why it matters: All of the public art is visible not just in the town, but also from the window of the Amtrak trains that roll through the town center multiple times a day, hopefully enticing more folks to stop and visit.

What they're saying: There's always been a desire to promote and grow Ashland's artistic side, but until the creation of the commission, the town didn't have the resources to do it, Martha Miller, Ashland's community engagement manager, tells Axios.

Zoom in: Sthreshley's donation last week includes seven abstract, concrete sculptures and one photograph. Placement will be determined in the coming months.

  • The pieces will join a 21-foot-long statue of the racehorse Secretariat, which was unveiled this spring and is in storage until the construction of Secretariat Plaza is completed next spring.
One of the pieces Sthreshley donated. Image: Courtesy of the Town of Ashland

Meanwhile, the town will unveil its second large-scale mural from local muralist Michelle Hollender this fall on the side of the Ashland Dance Academy, across from the Town Hall.

Flashback: Richmond artist Ed Trask created the town's first large-scale mural in 2017, a 250-foot-long piece on the side of The Caboose Market and Cafe celebrating Ashland's rail-town roots.

Today, in addition to the art, the town hosts a monthly Ashland Fourth Fridays, cultural programming at the town-owned Ashland Theatre, and an ongoing arts incentive program that awards up to $4,000 to locals to contribute to the town's art and culture.

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