FACETIME- Public works: Solla's art-full community dreams

How fun is this? Last year Piedmont Virginia Community College art chair Beryl Solla invited Broadus Wood Elementary School students to draw wild animals. Solla's PVCC class then replicated the colorful beasts in large-scale form for "The Herd Project," a sculpture series now installed at Broadus Wood.

These days Solla's name seems associated with nearly everything arty in the ‘ville– juried shows, selection committees, a mosaic installation at the Ix– but the ceramics artist says her first brush with Charlottesville's art scene was anything but pretty.

The year was 2000. Solla had left an 18-year teaching job at Florida's Barry University to move to Charlottesville with her psychotherapist husband, James Yates, and their two sons, Lyle and Ian. Hearing about the University of Virginia Art Museum's upcoming public art extravaganza, "Hindsight/Fore-site: Art for the New Millennium," Solla, with numerous public art commissions on her resumé, thought it offered an ideal way to jump into her new community.

She sought the Board of Architectural Review's permission to create a mosaic on the wall bordering the City Market that would celebrate the flowers Thomas Jefferson introduced to Virginia. The BAR response? "They asked if I would jackhammer off the work after I installed it," she says. "I was in shock. I was really in shock."

After all, Solla's work enlivens public spaces nationwide. Her favorite is "Home of the Brave," a 1996 mosaic she created for the Booher Addiction and Recovery Center in Coral Gables, Florida. "What I had the women do was to trace their hands and write their affirmations," she explains, describing how she involved the residents. "It was so powerful." She remarked to her husband, "Wow, that's the home of the brave." 

After her bruising BAR experience, Solla laid low locally, teaching at James Madison University and offering workshops around the state for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. But when the chance to chair PVCC's art program arose in 2005, community-minded Solla couldn't resist.

"There are so many facets to it, from classroom to administrative stuff, designing for the future to meeting artists," she explains. "It's the fullest kind of three-dimensional job."

"It is a blessing for me to have someone so insightful who realized that PVCC is the community's art department and resource," says PVCC dean Cliff Haury.

Solla, 53, credits former art chair Chica Tenney with laying the foundation that's enabled Solla to expand PVCC's faculty, re-envision the gallery programs, and increase outreach to area schools. Among her current projects are an outdoor show of light works for next winter and a multi-gallery, multi-artist exhibition, entitled "100 Hammers," to benefit Habitat for Humanity.

Solla's immodest goal for PVCC? "My intention is to make it the best art program ever!"

Beryl Solla


1 comment

"Home of the Brave" is in CORAL SPRINGS, Florida and is a beautiful work of art. One picture at www.coralsprings.org/publicart