On a recent weekday afternoon five British visitors gathered in Raflo Park on the edge of downtown Leesburg to begin a tour. It wasn’t a tour of wineries, downtown Leesburg breweries or historic sites, however. Instead, it was a walking tour of Leesburg’s public art.
From the iconic “Discover the Charm” mural to the ever-changing pieces in the sculpture garden at Raflo Park, Leesburg has become an open-air museum of ingenious public art.
Indeed, so impressive is the scene that longtime Loudoun resident and musician Amy Bobchek has started Loudoun Public Art Tours, a company specializing in guided walking tours of the public art in Leesburg.
The tours change depending on time and specific interests but in general they last between one hour and 90 minutes and incorporate 15 to 20 works, a combination of murals, sculptures and statues. On top of the pieces mentioned above a typical tour would include Kaeley Boyle’s colorful Bridge Mural on King Street, the Gale Waldron tribute mural on the side of the Town Hall Parking Garage and the bronze statue of beloved World War II airman and local civic leader Stanley Caulkins on a bench outside Black Hoof Brewing Company on King Street.
“In the last six or seven years we've seen vibrant murals and sculptures pop up all over Leesburg representing various styles, points of view and stories,” said Bobchek. “To me it's a whole new layer of richness that helps not only beautify but define our community.”
Of course, Leesburg is not the only town in Loudoun with public art.
Here we highlight some of the most prominent public art pieces in Loudoun and where to find them.
Mike Clay’s LOVEwork sculpture is at the intersection of Harrison Street and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail near Raflo Park. It is made almost entirely from recycled bicycle parts donated by local bike shops. Purcellville’s LOVE sign near the train station opposite Magnolias at the Mill uses the DC’s Wine Country® logo to celebrate the wine and viticulture of Loudoun. No town named Lovettsville should be without a LOVEwork. Artist Jill Evans-Kavaldjian’s sign on the town green has a heart for the “O” to embody the communal spirit and culture of the town.
On the South King Street Bridge near the W&OD Trail, Kaeley Boyle’s red and steel grey Train Mural depicts a modern Leesburg streetscape split by an oncoming vintage locomotive. The piece represents the traditions of historic Leesburg and the exciting contemporary face of downtown. On Harrison Street near MacDowell's Beach, James Garofalo’s colorful retainer wall mural depicts popular local shops, events and activities in downtown Leesburg. On quiet Liberty Street, you will find the most selfie-friendly mural in town: the turquoise-colored Discover the Charm piece featuring renowned local buildings illustrated with whimsical flair by design firm Sagetopia. Nearby on Liberty Street is the colorful Flourish mural of giant flowers, also by Sagetopia. Around the corner, on the alley behind the parking garage, is Penny Hauffe’s tribute to local artist Gale Waldron featuring a map of Leesburg surrounded by four historic views of the town.
In western Loudoun, graphic designer Addie Moore’s captivating 29-by-9-foot postcard-style “Welcome to Purcellville” mural is emblazoned on the side wall of Purcellville Family Restaurant. At the corner of Main and South 20th streets, it became an instantly popular and colorful selfie spot.
Over at One Loudoun in Ashburn, Kelsey Montague’s interactive balloon mural has visitors lining up to take pictures of themselves looking as if they’re flying through the air, carried away by the balloons.
If you’re looking for the biggest murals in the county, look no further than the giant 6,000 square-foot “new urbanism” murals on the back wall of the Alamo Drafthouse, also at One Loudoun. The abstract pieces – one by Loudoun artist Ed Trask – depict birds, planes, flowers, glass buildings and open sky, said to be representative of the five principles of “new urbanism”: harmony, social, connected, organic and urban.
Internationally renowned Jay Hall Carpenter is the visionary sculptor behind the "Spirit of Loudoun," statue at the Loudoun County Courthouse. The piece honors soldiers from Loudoun who served in the Revolutionary War. Carpenter is one of the best-known sculptors in the world.
A short walk away, three-acre Raflo Park with its picnic benches, gazebo and easy access to the W&OD Trail, is home to the sculpture garden ArtsPARK, a rotating series of conceptual pieces by five local, regional and international artists that changes every two years. June 2022 saw the unveiling of the latest rotation – two knitted sail-like paracord sculptures, a metal work sculpture titled “Oh Joy” and two unique pieces comprised of metal, found cedar and thrift shop items. The five works are on sale for between $1,500 and $5,000.
With Loudoun being horse country, no public art scene would be complete without an equestrian statue. Stroll the gardens of the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg to see a handsome bronze statue by British sculptor Tessa Pullan of Sea Hero, the 1993 Kentucky Derby winning horse owned by famous local resident Paul Mellon.