Run for the Arts: Combining Exercise and Art Appreciation

The public art sculpture at the Roanoke Civic Center is where the Run for the Arts begins and ends.

The public art sculpture at the Roanoke Civic Center is where the Run for the Arts begins and ends.
The public art sculpture at the Roanoke Civic Center is where the Run for the Arts begins and ends.

On October 17 you can work up a sweat while also developing a deeper appreciation for public art in Roanoke. That’s courtesy of a 4-mile “Run for the Arts,” being sponsored by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge, the Roanoke Arts Commission and the Roanoke Civic Center. The 9 a.m. run begins at the “In My Hands” public art sculpture that was erected and dedicated last year outside the Civic Center complex. It makes its way downtown, past other public art installations that have been funded by Roanoke City’s percent for art program, which takes 1% of the capital funds budget and sets it aside for such projects.

Arts Council Member Services and Program Director Krista Engl said highlighting what Roanoke has to offer in the way of public art is the principle driver. “It certainly has been a collaborative effort …[highlighting] all of the wonderful public art that we have.”

The Run for the Arts will also travel along greenways and includes a jaunt over the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge into Gainsboro. It is intentionally designed so that participants learn to appreciate public art in the city – the race will not be timed, and at designated venues runners must stop, take in the work and then receive a playing card.  The Fallen Firefighter outside the Virginia Museum of Transportation and “Comma” at the corner of Salem Avenue and Market Street are two stops along the way.

Those with the best hand at the end are the winners; thus it is a “poker run” for charity, like those used for some motorcycle fundraisers. Proceeds from the $25 entry fee ($35 after October 7, $10 for children) will benefit Arts Council of the Blue Ridge programs. There is also a family walk planned and pets ($5 entry) are welcome also.

The Access advertising and public relations firm is promoting Run for the Arts; Vice-President John Carlin is a runner himself and a member of the Roanoke Arts Commission. “I’ve run enough races to know that all I ever see is the pavement right in front of my feet or the back of the person in front of me.” A regular run past public art works wouldn’t be the same when you are just worried about breathing,” added Carlin. “We [had] to have a reason for people to stop by all these pieces of art.”

Hence the idea of a poker run was conceived. “The important thing is that you stop and appreciate the art.” The best hand produced by a runner will win a fitting prize – a piece of local art. Carlin is co-chair of the new Blue Ridge Marathon next spring, which will also take runners past some of the cultural icons in Roanoke City, like the Taubman Museum and Jefferson Center.

Engl said the running groups she has spoken to thought the new event “was neat and something different for them.” The funds raised “will help us continue to provide services to our local artists, [our] grants for artists program, Roanoke Youth Arts Connection and various educational programs,” said Engl about the Run for the Arts, which she hopes becomes a regular event. Contact Krista Engl at 224-1203 or [email protected] for more information, or see

By Gene Marrano
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