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Fairfax supervisors green-light mural effort for revitalization

Initial funding for effort is slated to be $300,000
This 400-foot-long mural at The Boro in Tysons exemplifies the kind of stunning visual impact Fairfax County officials are trying to obtain in the county's Economic Revitatlization District and Areas using a pilot mural program approved Oct. 10, 2023, by the Board of Supervisors.

Fairfax County’s eight economic revitalization districts and areas in coming years will be spruced up and enlivened by murals created under a newly approved pilot program.

The Board of Supervisors on Oct. 10 voted 10-0 in favor of the Community Revitalization Murals Program, following a board matter presented by Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville).

Creativity can enhance the county’s economic competitiveness and vitality, especially in commercial districts, Foust said.

“Place-making is about creating environments where people can thrive, where people want to be and where businesses want to locate and grow,” Foust said. “Our countywide strategic plan prioritizes place-making and recognizes a need to create great ‘people places’ that convey a sense of community identity.”

Murals can be used to celebrate a community’s history, character and unique assets, he added.

The Board of Supervisors’ Economic Initiatives Committee, which Foust chairs, on Sept. 19 heard a presentation from county staff about the pilot program.

The mural program will be administered by the Community Revitalization Section (CRS) of the county’s Department of Planning and Development. CRS officials will work with community stakeholders to select proper locations and themes for murals in each revitalization corridors.

CRS will develop a database of local and regional muralists, whom they will call upon to create and implement mural designs. Area muralists – including students at local schools and colleges – will be given priority, Foust said.

As the program progresses and officials gain lessons from experience, the program may be expanded to other parts of the county, Foust said.

Supervisors initially discussed financing the pilot program’s estimated $300,000 cost from the county’s economic-reserve account, but county staff found available funding in the general-construction-and-contributions account of the Revitalization Initiatives Project, he said.

CRS will use those funds to kick off the program during the current fiscal year. Officials earlier estimated the mural initiative would cost $400,000, but said they hoped they could offset about $100,000 of that expense with grant funds.

Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason) backed the mural program, but asked for County Executive Bryan Hill to provide follow-up information regarding the account from which the moneys will be withdrawn, saying “$300,000 is a considerable of money.”

“I want to make sure that we are recognizing what other things are earmarked in that particular fund,” she said.

Supervisor Dalia Palchik (D-Providence) said she appreciated that the mural pilot program would begin by using existing funds.

Murals painted under the program will need to remain in place for at least five years, during which the artists will be expected to repair vandalism or damage. The murals must display a “Paint It, Fairfax!” logo, but not provide commercial messages.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (D) urged county staff to streamline the program as it moves forward.

“If it’s too difficult a process for people to go through, we’re going to get less interest in it,” he said. “So keeping this as simple as possible while making sure we’re protecting the county’s interests and making wise investments will be critical to the success of the pilot.”