Alaska art lands on list of top 50 public art projects in US

"Snow Words" by Cecil Balmond.

“Snow Words,” a public artwork created by Cecil Balmond for the Alaska State Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory in Anchorage, has been named one of the 50 best public art projects created in the United States in 2013.


The Public Art Network Year in Review, a program of Americans for the Arts, considered more than 350 submissions for this year’s list, announced last month. The Year in Review program is the only national award that specifically recognizes public art projects.

The complex design is made up of 24 bars of LED lights arranged in floor to ceiling columns, which glow and dim at different rates according to individual computer programs. The 30-foot high piece, built from local materials, is partially surrounded by a cylindrical shell.

The design of the piece draws inspiration from prime numbers. Playing with patterns is something the Sri Lankan born Balmond is known for in his work, which combines elements of engineering, architecture and design. According to an interview with the New York Times in 2006, Balmond’s approach to patterns is often more intuitive than structural.

“I was always looking at patterns — in music, literature,” he said in the interview. “It was never only about structure.”

“Snow Words” was commissioned by Alaska State Council on the Arts and the State of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Safety, along with two other public artworks: “Fragmenta,” an exterior glass and steel sculpture by Osman Akan and “Chugach Fantasy,” a landscape painting by Bill Brody.

This is the first time an Alaska State Council on the Arts public art commission has received this award, noted Shannon Daut, Executive Director of the Alaska State Council on the Arts, in a release.

Alaska’s Percent of Art law, passed in 1975, facilitates the creation of work such as “Snow Words” by requiring a percentage of the cost of building construction be designated specifically for the creation and installation of art. In addition to creating beauty and interest in public spaces, these projects often offer artists unique constraints -- such as subject matter or specific spacial requirements -- that result in works that might otherwise never have been created.

The Alaska State Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory is located at 4805 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. in Anchorage. The lobby, where “Snow Words” is located, is open to the public 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, except for state holidays.

For a list of selected Public Art Network projects, visit


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