City of Oxford’s inaugural public art exhibition opens today in municipal building, community center

The City of Oxford is hosting its first ever Public Art Exhibition at the City Municipal Building after fielding submissions from more than 100 local artists.

The exhibition opens today. It which came together as a collaboration between the city staff, the city-affiliated Public Arts Commission of Oxford [PACO], and is jointly hosted with the independent Oxford Community Arts Center.

Ashley Keeton, a spokesperson for Oxford, said the city opted to forego a theme and instead cast as wide a net as possible for submissions. Keeton said the chosen artworks will be on display for a year.

“We just wanted to get a wide range of artists,” Keeton said, adding that submissions were accepted from all ages of hobbyists, amateurs and professionals in order to “ensure that we were getting a really wide range of submissions.”

After judging public submissions, PACO accepted 10 of 125 artworks — enough to fill the designated space within the building.

Keeton said the city has had an interest in featuring more art in public places for years, but prior efforts got sidelined as the pandemic surged. Heidi Schiller, the executive director for Oxford Community Arts Center, said the project began with the center’s previous director.

“It kind of got put on hold because COVID, as everything else did,” Schiller said. “When I was hired in January of ’21, we revisited this idea that the city wanted to display public art.”

Schiller said the OCAC partnered with the city to lend its expertise; the OCAC knew how to recruit artists and then insure their chosen works, critical aspects of the Public Art Exhibition project.

The OCAC and the city will each host their own receptions today. From 6 to 8 p.m., the City Municipal Building will be open to view the inaugural displays. Across the street, the OCAC will unveil three of its own new exhibitions in an installment of their “2nd Friday” art celebration, before a 7:30 p.m. musical Christmas performance from the Chris Comer Trio.

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