Thoreau’s Ensemble

Ben Volta
2019  |  Pigment print and acrylic on parachute cloth on composite panel

Philadelphia artist and educator Ben Volta was selected in 2018 to create a permanent public artwork for the Reston community at the Colts Neck Road underpass through a public art process facilitated by Public Art Reston. Volta responded to an artist call and was chosen by a selection committee comprised of key community stakeholders. The main goals of the project are to bring distinction to the concrete walls of the underpass; engage the public through direct involvement in creating a work of art guided by a professional artist; and enhance the perception of civic infrastructure by encouraging community ownership.

Thoreau’s Ensemble by Ben Volta Placed in the 2020 CODAawards Top 100 Finalists! 

Thoreau’s Ensemble is inspired by Reston’s fifty-five miles of pathways and a quote by poet and naturalist Henry David Thoreau to, “Pursue some path, however crooked and narrow, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” Volta adapted the passage for community workshops where he tasked more than 650 participants to, “draw a path (however wide, narrow, straight, jagged, crooked, curly and winding) in which we can all look at and enjoy with love and reverence.” Volta incorporated the resulting 710 individual path drawings into the final design of panels that cover the exterior and interior walls of the underpass with a layered and lyrical multi-colored composition. The drawings were realized by students at Hunters Woods and Dogwood Elementary Schools, seniors at the Hunters Woods Fellowship House, youth in the afterschool program at the South Gate Community Center, and intergenerational participants in a workshop at Hunters Woods at Trails Edge.

The project was realized and supported in part by a public art proffer fulfilled by Atlantic Realty Companies in developing their senior living community Hunters Woods at Trails Edge located near the underpass.

Project and related programs supported in part by : Atlantic Realty Companies, Public Art Reston, Reston Association, ARTSFAIRFAX, Reston Community Center, JBG-SMITH, Virginia Commission for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Pat and Steve Macintyre, Lake Thoreau Entertainment Association, Odin, Feldman, Pittleman, Architecture Incorporated, Hunters Woods at Trails Edge, Storycatcher Productions, and many individuals.

Owner: Reston Association