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In Advantage Valley, Locals Love Their Public Art

We sat down with Jeff Pierson, director of public art in Charleston, to brush up on why this region celebrates creativity.

By Livability on November 18, 2021

Artist Melissa Doty’s “All for Love” mural in downtown Charleston, West Virginia
Jeff Adkins

Public art is a fixture in Advantage Valley, incorporating a range of ways visitors and locals can interact with art in common spaces, from Huntington in Bloom’s beautification projects to colorful murals in Charleston. Livability talked with Jeff Pierson, director of public art in Charleston, to talk about what’s going on in this West Virginia region.

Q: What is the main goal of the Public Art Office?

We’ve put close to $1 million into public art projects in Charleston, employing 65 artists and creating more than 300 public art projects. Our main role is the conservation, education and creation of public art. We have a lot of great partners we work with to create our projects. We’re seeing an increase in murals all across the country, because they’re a sustainable way to create vibrancy in a community. We have a lot of buildings, building owners, artists, organizations and art patrons that create a healthy mix of people who want to enjoy public art and, specifically, murals.

Q: What are some of the notable public art projects in Charleston?

We approach mural projects in a way that has relevance to the city and the people here, and that creates pride in Charleston. Jack O’Hearn did a series of realistic butterflies that we installed on exterior walls of parking garages. We’re creating a mural by Victor Ving, who does postcard murals around the country, so inside the word Charleston, there are pictures of the city.

Q: What are some of the ways you engage the public in creating public art?

There are projects that have direct input from the public, like we’re creating a mural of Martin Luther King Jr. and behind his portrait there will be a thousand self portraits of people from Charleston. We wanted this to be a reflection of the community. The “Wonder” mural by Charly Hamilton, who was one of the most well-known artists in West Virginia, really involved the community because if you stopped by and talked to him while he was painting, he’d put you in the mural. So there are hundreds of people from Charleston in it.

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