Letter Meanings

Each letter represents one of the four focus areas – ethnic and cultural diversity, agricultural heritage, outdoor recreation, and the arts – and is constructed of locally sourced and re-purposed materials. As a unifying element, each letter has a base of local bluestone, the same attractive and stable material that has become a signature of buildings throughout the area and on the campuses of Harrisonburg’s higher education institutions, James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University.


L – Ethnic & Cultural Diversity

Community Significance

  • In the Harrisonburg City Public School system, more than 35 languages are spoken, with the largest representation from Spanish, Russian, and Kurdish populations.
  • Rosetta Stone, the world’s leading language-learning software company, was founded in Harrisonburg.
  • The Harrisonburg International Festival draws hundreds of people to the area each September to enjoy musical and dance performances, culinary offerings, folk art, and intercultural learning opportunities.
  • Locally-owned and operated restaurants feature a variety of ethnic cuisines, including traditional Americana, Asian Fusion, Caribbean, Chinese, Cuban, Dominican, Ethiopian, German, Greek, Indian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Mexican, Peruvian, Salvadorian, Thai, and Venezuelan.
  • A project launched in 2011 by the Peace and Unity Committee of Harrisonburg features Peace Poles with the phrase, “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in the area’s eight major languages to promote understanding among youth about local diversity.
The frame of the letter L. Photo by Mike Herr.

The frame of the letter L. Photo by Mike Herr.

Materials Used
The letter’s frame is constructed from aluminum sheets and large-scale collages also printed on aluminum that were then affixed to the frame. The collages of the letter’s three outer sides, end cap, and top panel feature materials collected from throughout the community to show a visual representation of local residents’ ethnic heritage and cultural backgrounds. These items include maps, flags, textiles and clothing, jewelry, books, game pieces, cooking implements, and menus from local ethnic restaurants. On the interior side, a list of all of the countries and territories in the world as of March 2013 is included to represent the changing diversity in the local and global context.

Coming Soon!
-A full visual and textual map of each collaged side of the letter L.
-Profiles of community members from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds.

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O – Agricultural Heritage

Community Significance

  • Harrisonburg and Rockingham County have been recognized as a strong agricultural region with a commitment to eating locally and supporting local growers.
  • The county has a long-standing representation as the “Poultry Capital of the East Coast” and continues to provide poultry to a large part of the country and some international locations.
  • There is also a well-recognized farming community and rich farming roots of Mennonite heritage in the area.
  • The Harrisonburg Farmers Market has over 40 vendors and has received national attention in The Washington Post.
  • The Friendly City Food Co-op is a natural and organic community-owned and –operated grocery store with over 1,200 members as of March 2013.
  • Many local restaurants also feature local and seasonal ingredients, and numerous food-focused events take place throughout the year.
The two wooden sides of the letter O being transported. Photo by Mike Herr.

The two wooden sides of the letter O being transported. Photo by Mike Herr.

Materials Used
The letter’s frame is constructed from aluminum and local wood. The wood was then etched with agricultural scenes by local artist Brady Schwendeman. A planter bed is built into the top of the letter’s frame to accommodate for native plantings by The Natural Garden of produce, herbs, and foliage. Upon it’s unveiling, the planter bed featured rainbow Swiss chard, strawberries, and various herbs. The letter’s aluminum frame was specially constructed to allow drainage of water from the planter bed to flow down the sides of the letter, eventually rusting it, as a nod to the aging that happens on local barns over the years.

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V – Outdoor Recreation

Community Significance

  • The natural landscapes and environmental resources of the area provide ample opportunity for bicycling, canoeing and kayaking, fishing, hiking, hunting, rock-climbing, snowboarding and skiing, and much more.
  • Harrisonburg has been designated as an Appalachian Trail Community, one of only seven Designated Ride Centers in the world by the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA), a Bicycle Friendly City by the League of American Bicyclists, and a Tree City USA. As of March 2013, Harrisonburg was one of only two communities in the country that is both a Ride Center and a Bicycle Friendly Community, and is one of 10 Appalachian Trail Communities in Virginia.
The welded bike frames that create the letter V, before painting and final welding. Photo by Jeff Guinn.

The welded bike frames that create the letter V, before painting and final welding. Photo by Jeff Guinn.

Materials Used
The letter’s frame is constructed from bicycle parts that were then painted blaze orange to symbolize the popularity of hunting and fishing in the area.

Coming Soon!
A sign from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy recognizing Harrisonburg as an Appalachian Trail Community will be affixed to the letter’s frame.

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E – Arts

Community Significance

The frame of the letter E after initial site installation. Photo by Nicole Martorana.

The frame of the letter E after initial site installation. Photo by Nicole Martorana.

Materials Used
The letter’s frame is constructed from aluminum, painted with chalkboard paint and affixed with panels of whiteboard and magnetic board. This patchwork appearance is meant to symbolize the diversity of artistic mediums and maximize exhibit opportunities. The concept of this letter is to be particularly interactive, inviting the community to contribute art while also featuring the work of local artists. The letter not only invites the community to contribute by posting their artwork but will also serve as an additional space for artists to be featured during the monthly First Fridays Downtown events.

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