Thoreau's Ensemble - CODAworx

Thoreau’s Ensemble

Submitted by Public Art Reston

Client: Public Art Reston, Reston Association

Location: Reston, VA, United States

Completion date: 2020

Artwork budget: $110,000

Project Team


Ben Volta

Volta Studio

Project Manager

Anne Delaney

Public Art Reston

Chief Operating Officer

Larry Butler

Reston Association

Director of Maintenance and Environmental Resources

Mike McNamara

Reston Association

Construction Supervisor

David Schumaker

Reston Association

Executive Director of Independent Living Operations

Cissy Nickel

Hunters Woods at Trails Edge


Artist Ben Volta was selected to create a permanent public artwork at the Colts Neck Road underpass through a public art process facilitated by Public Art Reston. Volta responded to a call for artists and was chosen by a selection committee comprised of key community stakeholders. “Thoreau’s Ensemble” is inspired by Reston’s fifty-five miles of pathways and a quote by poet Henry David Thoreau to, “Pursue some path, however crooked and narrow, in which you can walk with love and reverence.” Volta adapted the passage for community workshops where he tasked more than 650 participants to, “draw a path (however wide, narrow, straight, jagged, crooked, curly and winding) in which we can all look at and enjoy with love and reverence.” Volta incorporated the resulting 710 individual path drawings into the final design of panels that cover the exterior and interior walls of the underpass with a layered and lyrical multi-colored composition.


The main goals of the project were to: Bring distinction to the four concrete walls that frame the entrances to the underpass and line the interior walls;
Engage the community — students, their parents and teachers, pedestrians and bicyclists — through direct involvement in the creation of a work of art, guided by a professional artist; Enhance the perception of safety by eliminating graffiti/tagging.


Ben Volta was asked to address the spirit of the Hunters Woods Neighborhood; respond to the cultural diversity of the community; and develop an artwork that identifies the underpass as a civic facility within the fabric of the surrounding neighborhood. Ben Volta met with the community stakeholders in preparation for his project. He led eight workshops notably with students at Hunters Woods and Dogwood Elementary Schools, seniors at the Hunters Woods Fellowship House, children in the after-school program at the Southgate Community Center, and intergenerational participants in a workshop at Hunters Woods at Trails Edge. All venues are located near the Colts Neck Road underpass. Several videos were realized by Reston Association and Public Art Reston during the workshops and during a site visit by Dogwood Elementary Schools students. They are available on the Public Art Reston YouTube Channel.

Additional Information

The "Public Art Master Plan for Reston", adopted in December 2008, identifies the underpasses that carry Reston's path system under major roadways as locations for new artwork commissions. By partnering artists with Reston's elementary schools and community organizations these projects seek to create permanent enhancements in public spaces throughout Reston. The project and related programs were supported in part by : Atlantic Realty Companies, Public Art Reston, Reston Association, ArtsFairfax, Reston Community Center, JBG-SMITH, Virginia Commission for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Pat and Steve Macintyre, Lake Thoreau Entertainment Association, Odin, Feldman, & Pittleman, P.C., Architecture Incorporated, Hunters Woods at Trails Edge, Storycatcher Productions, and many individuals.