Fredericksburg, Virginia, situated halfway between Richmond and Washington, DC, is a small city, rich with history. It is impossible to walk down any of the streets in downtown Fredericksburg and not come across a building or structure that is at least 150 years old. There are even some that are well over 200 years old; the oldest surviving structure dates back to 1737! So, it would definitely be a vast understatement to say that there were only a handful of things to see in Fredericksburg.
Aside from the historical structures, there were many individuals, (whose names you might recognize) that either lived in Fredericksburg or had close ties; among them: George Washington, John Paul Jones, James Monroe, Hugh Mercer, and Gari Melchers. Many of their historical homes, or businesses, still stand and are open for the public to tour. Hugh Mercer’s Apothecary, President James Monroe’s Law office, and Gari Melchers Belmont are all within a few minutes of each other and each offer a different slice of history.
But wait! There’s More!
Tourists flock to Fredericksburg for the quaint downtown area, the adorable shops, the historical buildings, and the friendly people. But did you know that there is even MORE than that in Fredericksburg? There is a bustling art scene that doesn’t just exist within the confines of studios. Let’s take a look at the art of Fredericksburg.
The Fredericksburg Arts Commission’s Public Sculpture project, for the past 4 years, has selected several sculptures from public entries for display in prominent areas around Fredericksburg. The sculptures are displayed for 11 months, and then new sculptures are selected. It is definitely a very unique way to highlight artists; to create dialog; and to showcase Fredericksburg’s growing art scene.
The first time that I came across one of the public art pieces, I was driving around Fredericksburg trying to find something new to do and I came upon “A Future and a Hope.” As I came around the corner, there it was! I was a little shocked to see art in such an out-of-the-way-place. I drove slowly past and made the decision to turn around and investigate. Art has a way of doing that; drawing you in, making you want more. I was curious about the piece. Who put it there? Had it always been there? What was the meaning behind it? Was I trespassing on someone’s property, hopefully not.
Near the sculpture there was a small metal sign with: www.fredarts.com AHA! A clue! If you know anything about me, you know that I love a good mystery. Just call me Velma; I already have the crazy dog to take with me on Adventures, I just need the rest of the gang. Ha! Anyhow, once I went to the website I was able to find out all of the information about this particular piece. Not only did I find out about this piece, I also saw that there were other sculptures nearby that I needed to find as well. It became like a big Easter Egg hunt for me. It was a pretty awesome afternoon.
I had a great time finding each of the sculptures, some I had previously driven right past and not noticed. The website had easy to follow directions to each of the sites, but the only downside was that there wasn’t any follow-on information about the sculptures after they are removed. Where do they go? Can we see it someplace else? Who is the artist? Where is the artist? I’m sure you can see that I was a very difficult child. Always more questions. Lol. Are we there yet?
Take a Look Around
Aside from the public sculptures, there are so many other works of art throughout Fredericksburg. There are large murals that cover buildings; there are some that you have to search for; and there are even some that you may walk past and not even realize that they’re there. I will be the first to admit that I was guilty of the latter. It is very easy to be hyper focused on where you’re going and not take an extra look around. But of course you would be missing out on what is right in front of you (or to the side of you).
As you cross over the Chatham bridge into Fredericksburg, you are greeted with a large colorful mural on the corner of Sophia Street and William Street. The colorful mural gives you the view of Fredericksburg, if you were looking from across the river at Chatham Manor. I had noticed this mural many times driving into downtown Fredericksburg, but it wasn’t until I came across another mural on accident that I started to wonder how many more murals I could find.
Mosaics and Murals
On the side of Roxbury Mills Farm and Garden Center there is a beautiful mosaic that adorns the wall. While on my Easter egg hunt of mural searching, I came across this mural and was stunned at how large it is. I suppose most murals tend to be large, but this one had a different component because it’s a mosaic. Along the border there are several different trinkets from the individuals that helped put the mosaic together. I thought that it was an interesting way to add personal touches. One of the other things that I really liked about the mosaic was all of the mirrors. When you are looking at the mirror, you become a part of the mosaic too. It was a very well though out concept.
One of the things that I really like about the art murals in Fredericksburg is how they tell the town’s history while making the city look beautiful. The mural for the Old Mill District is on Princess Anne as you enter Fredericksburg from Route 1. Unfortunately, there are quite a few run-down buildings in this industrial area. It would be nice to see some more murals grace the sides of some of those buildings.
Past Meets Present
One of the murals that is extremely hard to miss takes up the corner of Spencer Devon Brewing on George Street. On one side of the building, it pays homage to both the history of brewing with a nod to historical Fredericksburg. And on the other corner, the present.
From the information that I’ve been able to gather on the murals in Fredericksburg, the vast majority of them have been completed within the past 10 years. There has been a growing trend throughout the United States to incorporate art in every day lives; I would much rather see art murals than abandoned buildings and trash.
Quite literally across the street from Spencer Devon Brewing on George Street are several small murals painted in doorways and windows. I had walked by them several times and never noticed them. As with many of the other art pieces in Fredericksburg, these small paintings are definitely a nod to Fredericksburg’s history. Fredericksburg played a pivotal role during the Civil War and these art pieces reflect that history by portraying both the Federal and Confederate troops.
I didn’t get an opportunity to investigate the building too much, so I’m not sure who the building belongs to, or what is housed here. Hopefully I’ll be able to do some more sleuthing soon.
History is all around us. It is always evolving and it is always reforming itself. Luckily, there are some pretty amazing people that have had the foresight to help capture that history in art works throughout Fredericksburg. Whether it is formal organizations that install large sculptures, or private citizens that choose to paint their buildings, one thing is for sure: we are extremely grateful for them. The art in Fredericksburg is for everyone, whether you grew up in Fredericksburg, or you are just passing through. Enjoy it, write about it, share your photos. I’m sure other people would love to see it.
Once again, thank you for coming along with me on my Adventures. I hope you enjoyed reading about the art in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I am working on a video that will be out soon. Stay tuned!
Until the next Adventure,