‘Artwork can inspire change’: Chapel Hill calls for artists to paint bike racks

March 1, 2022

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By Jenna Rupp for The Daily Tar Heel | Photo by Rebecca Du

The Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture division recently announced that it is searching for artists to paint bike racks at community centers around town. The artist application will close on Monday, March 7, at 5 p.m.

Selected artists will paint either a set of four U-shaped bike racks or a set of eight. The stipend for the artists will be $1,150 for the four racks and $2,300 for the eight racks.

Steve Wright, Chapel Hill public art coordinator, said the bike racks are located at the Homestead Aquatic Center and Chapel Hill Community Center.

Wright said the idea for the project has been in the works since the fall. He also said the project is a celebration of May as National Bike Month. The goal of the project is both to give the town character through the art and to promote alternative modes of transportation.

“It’s a little bit of beautification, but then also calling attention to positive sustainability practices that we’d like to encourage throughout the town,” Wright said.

This bike rack art project is the latest of public arts projects Chapel Hill and Carrboro have debuted over the last year. Public art can also be seen in murals on public buildings and local businesses, in bus shelters and on transit buses.

Community Arts & Culture is also planning for artists to paint sidewalk murals around storm drains to call attention to good stormwater practices.

“Pretty much anywhere there’s some infrastructure that we can get some public art on, we would love to do it,” Wright said.

Artists applying to paint the bike racks must reside within a 40-mile radius of Chapel Hill. This requirement is in place due to both practicality and a desire to support local artists, Wright said.

Raleigh-based artist Jermaine “JP” Powell is applying to paint the bike racks. Powell said selecting local artists is important for enhancing the look and feel of the area.

JP has previously created public art for the Town of Chapel Hill, including bus shelter murals installed in 2020 and 2021. Powell said one unique aspect of public art is the community input that goes into the project.

“Art is all around us,” JP said. “I’ve found that art brings people together, especially during this special time in history, and it has the power to make changes both small and large within a local community.”

If selected for this project, Powell hopes to paint the bike racks in a way that inspires adventure, travel and being active.

“Artwork can inspire change,” JP said. “A lot of times it can inspire thought, and most importantly, can bring people together.”

UNC sophomore Kaitlin Holtz said she pays attention to the public art when walking around campus and that it can often bring joy to people.

“I think small public artwork can have a big impact,” Holtz said.

She also said public art makes an area feel more welcoming.

“It makes me happy and feel more inspired when there’s art all around me or in random spots throughout campus or town,” she said.

Wright said he is hopeful the bike racks project will be received well by the community. He hopes it will be a pleasant surprise that adds to residents’ aesthetic experience.

“Public art has a certain voice,” JP said. “It has a voice with a large impact attached to it.”

Artists can apply for the project here.


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