Downtown Harrisonburg’s thriving arts scene has surged with new public art in recent years, transforming the area into a visually captivating destination. In the last year alone, five new murals, including a four-story chess player by Niels Westergard, have been commissioned. Additionally, eight bronze duck sculptures were installed and a new gateway art sculpture is set to be unveiled by the start of summer. These new additions join numerous existing vibrant murals, sculptures, and iconic LOVEworks signs, showcasing Harrisonburg’s creative spirit and making downtown a hub for cultural enrichment and artistic expression. Explore one of Virginia’s First Arts and Cultural Districts with the Downtown Public Art Tour. Here are some highlights of what you will see along the tour.

Lucy Simms Mural

Lucy Simms, born into slavery in 1856 in Harrisonburg, dedicated 56 years of her life to education after being educated at Hampton University. She taught over 1,800 students spanning three generations until her death in 1934. This mural, created by Andre Shank in 2016, commemorates her remarkable legacy. Shank’s design was chosen through a public contest and commissioned by the City of Harrisonburg, the Arts Council of the Valley, and the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance. Using latex and spray paints, Shank, assisted by his family and Paul Somers, projected Simms’ portrait onto the wall to ensure accuracy.

LOVEworks sign

Harrisonburg and Rockingham County are a vibrant community blending diverse ethnicities, rich agricultural roots, abundant outdoor adventures, and a thriving arts scene. The LOVEworks letters stand as interactive representations of these strengths, each crafted from locally sourced materials and set upon a base of local bluestone—a material often found in the region’s architecture and educational institutions. Accompanying the sculpture are educational plaques delving into cultural themes, materials, artists, and community partnerships, enriching the experience for all who visit. The Harrisonburg LOVEwork sign won third for LOVE signs in the Virginia Living’s Best of Virginia 2024.

Public Art Forward Mural

Located on the side of the MODdisplays building, each aspect on this mural tells a different story of Harrisonburg. The Public Art Forward Mural created by local painter, mixed media artist, and former public school art teacher, Laura Thompson, represents the first Public Art Forward grant awarded by Arts Council of the Valley.  The mural features various elements—from a lion and ducks to a sunflower and diver—each with its own local connection. Signage near the mural provides information about the artist and artwork, while a QR code links viewers to stories behind the depicted items.

Earth Day Every Day Mosaic

Titled “Plastic Waster Blues,” this mosaic, created by artist Barbara Camph, combines art glass with recycled plastic waste. Installed in May 2020, it was a collaborative effort between OASIS Fine Art & Craft, Earth Day Every Day (EDED), and partially funded by the Arts Council of the Valley. Inspired by a presentation on sustainability by EDED founder Elly Swecker to Advanced Art Students at East Rockingham High School, the students, under the guidance of their art teacher Christopher Michael and Barbara Camph, created artworks on the topic. Camph then designed and crafted the mosaic, which serves as a permanent installation aimed at raising awareness about the harmful effects of single-use plastics and promoting alternatives.

Mark-IT LOVEwork Mural

The Mark-It LOVEwork is a larger-than-life mural that highlights the natural landscape of the surrounding area, the interests of the people in its community, and the property’s history. The building dates from the early 1900s and has housed a print shop, a dog store, a salon, a running store, a paint shop, a bottle cleaning production company, and more. The bright colors of the mural are highly visible from Liberty and Water Street, and up close viewers can discover many fun illustrations representing local culture.

To explore one of Virginia’s First Arts and Cultural District, download the Downtown Public Art Tour on the VisitHarrisonburg VA App.