While CityBeautiful21 is normally in the business of reacting to and commenting on news developments in Carrboro, today I have the opportunity to break some news – the design for the proposed mural on the wall near the Jones Ferry Rd and NC 54 interchange is being released in this blog post!
This week I had the opportunity to connect with Michael Adamson (MA), a longtime friend of Carrboro who has been shepherding the mural process along over the last two years, with significant contributions from BOA Members Randee Haven-O’Donnell and Damon Seils. Here’s what he had to say.
CB21: First, where is this mural being proposed?
MA: The mural would be painted on a large wall facing NC 54 beneath the Collins Crossing (formerly Abbey Court) apartments near where the on/off ramps meet Jones Ferry Rd. Here is a picture of the area from Google Streetview:
CB21: Tell us a bit about how the idea of a mural at this location got started.
MA: It wasn’t my idea. My daughter Catherine Adamson, who lives near the mural wall and commutes by it twice a day, said to me, “Dad, a mural would look really good on that wall.” She suggested I take it on as a project. That was in September, 2013. I brought the idea to Art Menius (then director of the ArtsCenter) and Jacquie Gist (Carrboro alder). They smoothed the way to working with the Carrboro Arts Committee and the very fine muralist, Michael Brown. This was a complex project from the beginning because so many stakeholders were involved. The wall belongs to the North Carolina Department of Transportation so they have final say. And we wanted as much public input as possible, especially from kids who live in the neighborhood.
CB21: This intersection functions as a gateway to Carrboro for folks coming from places due west, including Snow Camp, Saxapahaw, or even further away in the Triad. (Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point) Was there a message about Carrboro you hoped to send through the artwork in this location?
MA: There are really several messages. One is the message of the process itself. We are sending a message to school children and their parents that we care about them. We want them involved. We went to the local schools closest to the mural site and engaged about 160 third graders in drawing self-portraits. They looked in a mirror and drew themselves. Michael Brown used those portraits as the basic material from which he created the mural image. No child can be identified from their portrait in the mural because the elements of the images have been mixed. But the children know that they inspired the art. That is the message to them.
There is another message to the other citizens in Carrboro and in surrounding communities. The Town logo, which is at the center of the mural, tells everyone that this is Carrboro and that Carrboro cares about kids. Carrboro also cares about diversity and this comes through in the fact that the portraits look like the kids, in all their variety and uniqueness. We wanted every person who looks at the mural to see someone who looks like them. The mural is a human rainbow.
CB21: You reached out to schoolchildren to generate material for the mural. How did they arrive at the idea of doing the self portraits?
MA: Michael Brown is a former school teacher so he knew that it is a common art class assignment for kids in 3rd grade to draw themselves. It’s a valuable exercise… part of learning about your own identity as you are growing up. He suggested to the art teachers at Carrboro Elementary School and Scroggs Elementary School that their kids might be involved in a project that would benefit everyone. Both teachers enthusiastically joined the project and the kids had a lot of fun. Michael Brown taught lessons to the kids… lessons about the history or portraiture and the basic elements of art. So the kids benefited directly and their art will live on for many years, seen by the passengers of more than 25,000 cars per day that pass the mural site.
CB21: Clearly there’s some math here. 100+ kids and you can’t fit all the portraits on the wall. Was it hard to pick ones to go in the final image?
MA: There are 7 portraits in the mural. These are composed of elements from the self-portraits of the 160 children who participated. This was in no way a competition. We did not want children to be singled out or judged on the basis of their art work. After all, these are 8 and 9 year old children. So it’s not about competition. It’s about having fun and doing the best art you are capable of. Some children will recognize an element in the mural that seems to come from their own art work. But there is no way to trace the final mural image back to any particular child.
CB21: Muralist Michael Brown, who has a tremendous body of work on local walls in the area, is involved. Tell us about his role.
MA: Michael Brown is the creator of the mural. He used the children’s self-portrait art as his inspiration, but he is the real source of the mural. Michael Brown and I have a great working relationship. I think that’s precisely because I have no artistic talent. I don’t pretend that I can contribute to the art itself. Michael Brown lets me take care of guiding the project through the process. Michael Brown did all the presentations to the Carrboro Arts Committee where the final image was decided on. And he will do the actual painting of the mural. We wanted to involve the children in the painting as well as the image creation process, but that was not possible at this site due to safety concerns. We hope that in the next phase of the mural we can have everyone in Town involved in the actual painting.
CB21: How is this project being funded?
MA: The mural has been granted $8,000 in funding from the Carrboro Tourism Development Authority.
CB21: On September 1st there is going to be a public hearing at the Carrboro Board of Aldermen meeting. What input are you and others involved in the mural process are you seeking?
MA: Well, first of all we want to make everyone aware of the project. The hearing will give folks a chance to learn about how the image was created and ask any questions they have about the art itself as well as the process of putting paint on the wall. People who come to the hearing can speak to the Board of Aldermen and express their opinion about the project and the art itself.
Public art has a purpose. That purpose is to stimulate people who see it to think and feel. And when people think and feel, that can cause controversy. Maybe some people will not like having a mural at this location. Maybe some people will not like the art work. It is rare to have any piece of art that is liked by everyone. The Carrboro Arts Committee reviewed the project and selected the particular image that we are proposing. And that committee is very representative of the arts community and the Carrboro community as a whole. But everyone has a right to their own opinion and a right to express that opinion. So we want folks to speak their minds. If you like it, say so. If you don’t, say so.
CB21: This is the first phase of the Carrboro Mural Project, but there are two more phases to come in the future. Tell us about those.
Yes, this first phase, which includes the Town logo, faces NC 54 and will be seen by many thousands of people every day. It is a simple, low resolution image that can be viewed as you pass by at the speed limit, which is 45 miles per hour.
The next phase of the project will be on the adjoining wall which faces Jones Ferry Rd. We don’t know exactly what image will be on that wall. It is also going to be viewed by moving traffic at a distance, but the cars will be moving slower and will be closer to the image, so perhaps we can have more detail in that image. The big difference with phase 2 is that there is a grassy lawn area in front of the wall. We hope this will make it safe to have regular citizens (and not just professional artists) involved in applying paint to canvas. The whole Town could be involved in painting.
And the third phase of the project will be on the wall along the Jones Ferry side walk. This will viewed by people standing still just a few feet from the wall, so we can have very high definition art on that wall. We hope to “panelize” that wall so that it can hold 25 go 30 separate art projects. And hopefully each of these can be designed and painted by citizens of Carrboro.
We hope that the first phase will be painted this Fall. In coming years, the other two phases will become reality so that Carrboro will be known for the very fine public art that graces the Jones Ferry gateway to the town.
In closing, I’m grateful to Michael Adamson for taking the time to discuss the mural, and I encourage CB21 readers to attend the public hearing On September 1st at Carrboro Town Hall. Personally, I support the mural for a variety of reasons, but the primary reason is that it represents the expression of a core value in this town: the notion that within everyone is the capacity for art, and that Carrboro is a place that gives everyone the opportunity, space, and freedom to be a contributor to that culture. Anyone wanting to find out more can visit the Carrboro Mural Facebook Page. Without further ado, here is the final mural image by Michael Brown! (Click to enlarge!)