For Chapelboro.com | Article by Melissa Bartoletta
This week brought the return of the solar flare to our skies. And with that, signs of spring are popping up in gardens, rhythms are energized by longer days, and warmer temperatures are taking us outside again. We’re still in the tight grasp of the beastly pandemic but what we’ve learned from the past year in isolation is the need for the arts remains alive.
The good news is that there are local organizations aiming to sustain this need for the arts. The Town of Chapel Hill’s Community Arts & Culture division is one of these groups, established just a few years ago to advance local interests around creating a more vibrant and inclusive community. Since March, the Community Arts & Culture team has launched a variety of COVID-friendly arts-based projects – and there’s more to come. “We are committed to cultivating arts experiences that the community can safely enjoy,” says Susan Brown, the division’s Executive Director, “We aim to engage and embrace the diversity that represents all that Chapel Hill is – past, present, and future.”
As you venture into the sun’s golden rays this month, the Community Arts & Culture team invites you to explore the public art sprinkled throughout Chapel Hill. Here’s our list of some new and old, temporary and permanent art to experience on your next jaunt around Town:
- Bolin Creek Trail Art
There’s plenty of art to take in along the 2 miles of the Bolin Creek Trail. Two large murals bookmark the path – the graffiti style Florifauns by J Massullo and The Universe Moves Us, co-created by Daniel LeClair and local high school students. Just west of the Florifaun mural is an art bench dedicated to Joe Herzenberg, the first openly gay elected official in North Carolina. Listen to the Re/Collecting Chapel Hill podcast to hear more about the bench and the person who inspired it.
- Tanyard Branch Trail Bridge Art
In 2018, metalsmith Leo Gaev was commissioned to create art for the bridge on the Tanyard Branch Trail connecting Umstead Park to the Northside neighborhood. Lining the bridge are 43 steel silhouettes inspired by folks going about their daily lives.
- Downtown Window Vinyls
In 2020, windows along Franklin Street were adorned with large vinyl art to inspire, give love, and foster resilience. Four new pieces of art will be going up this month specifically highlighting artists of color. For a full list of artists and spaces, click here.
- Elizabeth Cotten Mural
While you’re downtown, stop by 111 N. Merritt Mill to see the large Elizabeth Cotten mural by artist Scott Nurkin, as part of the NC Musicians Mural project. Elizabeth Cotten is renowned for her distinctive musical style, playing left-handed on a right-handed guitar. Want to learn more about Ms. Cotten? Listen to her episode on the Re/Collecting Chapel Hill podcast.
- Downtown Historical Markers
At the corner of W. Rosemary St. and Roberson St., the Freedom Fighters Gateway shares a glimpse into the Civil Rights movement with photos and oral histories, marking the entrance to the Northside Neighborhood. In front of the West End Wine Bar, stands The Chapel Hill Nine marker by artist Stephen Hayes. This marker was installed on February 28, 2020– on the 60th anniversary of and at the site of Chapel Hill’s first sit-in. Want to learn more about Civil Rights history in Chapel Hill? Visit chapelhillhistory.org.
- Merritt’s Pasture Art Benches
Designed by artist Michal Waller and in memory of the Merritt family, two public art benches provide a place to take in views of Merritt’s Pasture. Going Home is at the pasture’s peak and Together is just south near the pond. Did you know that the bike racks at the entrance to the pasture are also public art? Created in 2011 by artist Al Frega, the racks are made from recycled brake drums from Chapel Hill Transit buses. See a photo here.
- Booker Creek Pipe Murals
Remember those large water and sewer pipes on the Lower Booker Creek Trail? Last spring, artist Max Dowdle transformed the cement structures with bright colors and natural aesthetics to compliment the trail. We hope to collaborate with artists and the community to paint more pipes this summer. Check them out here.
- Magnolia Exotica in Homestead Park
Homestead Park is not only home to an aquatic center and Skate Park, but also a piece of permanent public art. Inspired by the many colors of a peacock, Magnolia Exotica is made of an innovative type of stainless steel that produces different hues in the light. Created by the artist Carl Regutti.
When you go out and about to see this public art, snap a selfie or other pic and share your art experiences on social media by tagging Community Arts & Culture in posts, images, and stories. Find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
Article Author, Melissa Bartoletta, and Steve Wright from Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture, joined Aaron Keck on 97.9 The Hill WCHL’s This Morning with Aaron Keck to discuss this column and the publlic art scene in Chapel Hill, you can listen to the interview here.