The Council on Virginia Tech History has initiated a call for public art in preparation for the university’s sesquicentennial in 2022.

The call, “Understanding Our Complicated Past and Reconnecting with Our Layered Histories: An International Ideas Competition,” seeks proposals for creative approaches to highlight how historically marginalized communities have shaped and will continue to shape Virginia Tech.

The winning art pieces will be featured at the university’s oldest structures, Solitude and the Fraction Family House, which were part of the grounds of a former plantation owned by the Preston family. The Solitude House was occupied by the family, and the Fraction Family House is the only remaining structure for housing those enslaved by the Prestons.

Proposals for all forms of art, from virtual to physical and everything in between, are highly encouraged. Artists may submit proposals to the Council on Virginia Tech History through the submission portal.

“Art strives to embody an experience and delivers a platform for audience engagement and reflection. Public art representing Virginia Tech’s marginalized communities and their roles in shaping the university on some of the most historical grounds on campus invites audiences of all backgrounds to recognize the full context of Virginia Tech’s history,” said chair of the Public Art Committee for the Council on Virginia Tech History, C.L. Bohannon, assistant professor in the School of Architecture + Design within the College of Architecture and Urban Studies.

In selecting artwork, the Selection Committee will consider such factors such as the artwork’s reflection of Virginia Tech’s history, diversity, and cultural profile and its demonstration of the intersecting relationship and influences from the White, Black, and Native American presence.

“Elevating the untold stories of marginalized communities at Virginia Tech in the spirit of InclusiveVT and the Beyond Boundaries vision for the future, allows us as an institution to holistically understand our collective history,” said Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Diversity Menah Pratt-Clarke. “The projects sponsored by the Council on Virginia Tech History, including the call for public art, provide multiple opportunities and mediums for sharing Virginia Tech’s comprehensive history.”

Solitude and the Fraction Family House location can be understood as landscapes of pain and imposition as well as wealth and privilege.

“The land where the public art will be featured was home for the Tutelo and Monacan peoples,” said chair of the Council on Virginia Tech History, Bob Leonard, professor in the School of Performing Arts within the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “The Preston family, leaders amongst pre-Revolutionary colonizing settlers, claimed it for their plantation, which they built with their enslaved Blacks and, after several generations, sold it to become part of the original campus for the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College — now Virginia Tech. This land is contested space, the relationships amongst these peoples complicated, with consequences that impact us today and well into our future.”

The call for public art is one of several initiatives from the Council on Virginia Tech History to illuminate the numerous histories that form Virginia Tech’s story.

Written by Meghan Marsh