The city and Venture Richmond are prepared to cut the ribbon on a new, vibrant public space connecting the Historic Jackson Ward neighborhood and City Center. The intersection of Brook Road and W Marshall Street now hosts a three-part placemaking project consisting of a custom-designed parklet, pedestrian plaza, and intersection mural designed to provide space for community gatherings and art appreciation.
Designed by local firm Walter Parks Architects, this is the first custom-designed public parklet built in the City of Richmond. Located outside of ART 180, it will provide safe space for participants in the nonprofit’s youth programming to gather before and after class, and is open to the general public as well.
Local artist Chris Visions designed the mural, which references the rich history of Jackson Ward and the neighborhood’s enduring mission to carry on a legacy of Black excellence. The design is based on the Sankofa, an Andikra symbol from Ghana meaning “to go back and retrieve/get,” and the colors echo the red, black and green of the Pan-African flag. ART 180 youth painted the mural as part of the culmination of their Community Program earlier this fall.
The plaza is a result of reclaiming unused public space in front of Gallery 5 and restoring the historic bricks that existed beneath the asphalt. Artist Chris Visions created an artistic extension of the intersection mural into the plaza space and Venture Richmond provided bike racks for people visiting Gallery 5, ART 180, and neighboring businesses and residents.
The Broad Street Task Force, a group of proponents of Richmond’s Downtown convened by the mayor, shared that residents want more vibrant spaces to gather in the area. This, alongside an Asphalt Art Initiative placemaking grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the advocacy of community partners, acted as a catalyst for this new public space placemaking project at the intersection of Brook and Marshall.
City of Richmond staff from Planning and Development Review, the Department of Public Works, the Department of Public Utilities and the Public Art Commission worked alongside Venture Richmond to make the project possible. Additional project partners include ART 180, Big Secret, CB Chandler Construction, Cite Design, Gallery 5, Richmond Toolbank, Vanderbilt Properties, and Walter Parks Architects.
A ribbon cutting for the placemaking project will take place on site in front of Gallery 5 (200 W Marshall St) on Wednesday, November 17 at 2:00 p.m. All are welcome.
Quotes from partners:
Mayor Levar Stoney: “The pandemic has taught us that safe and welcoming outdoor space is more important than ever. I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the many people who dedicated their time and talents to make this possible. It will be an enduring community asset and a model for future endeavors.”
Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Riverfront and Downtown Placemaking, Venture Richmond: “It has been so rewarding to see this shared vision take shape over two years of work with the ever-growing team of businesses, nonprofit organizations, residents, and artists in the area immediately surrounding the intersection of Brook and Marshall. By working together and bringing everything we have to offer to the table, we have created a sense of place through lasting infrastructure change that everyone in the neighborhood can enjoy.”
Prabir Mehta, Chair of the Board of Directors, Gallery 5: “Having a place for the Jackson Ward community to gather, enjoy art, and interact with one another is vital for our neighborhood's general health. Gallery5 is excited too as we will now be able to create unique programing that we would have never been able to do in the past. We're very excited to see how this new plaza will become a home for engaging communities through the arts!”
Sean Wheeler, Project Manager and Registered Architect, Walter Parks Architects: “WPA collaborated on the design and provided drawings for the project. When we entered the Park(ing) Day competition [hosted by Venture Richmond] back in 2019, we were excited to try and create an engaging but temporary public space. And although all of the installations only lasted a day, the transformations and interactions within those creative spaces sparked hope for a more permanent placemaking. That is why our office and I think the immediate neighborhood were willing to pursue a more durable site specific design in our shared public way.”
Marlene Paul, Cofounder and Executive Director of ART 180: “I love the ‘intersection’ of public art, placemaking, and community building that this intersection promotes. As a nine-year resident of Marshall Street, ART 180 welcomes this new way to connect our young people and our teaching artists to our neighborhood, honor its history, and positively participate in its future. We hope the parklet and plaza will be active spaces that invite the community beyond our block to gather and connect. The mural is intended to slow cars, just as the parklet and plaza will seek to slow human beings—to gather, connect, intersect.”
Susan Glasser, Secretary of the Richmond Public Art Commission: “This mural embodies public art in every sense: created by a local artist, painted by local young people and marking space for local gatherings. The Public Art Commission is proud to have supported this effort and looks forward to continuing our work to empower the making of art for all.”