Public Art Commission brings diverse art to the city

Public Art Commission brings diverse art to the city
January 11
05:00 2018

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Public Art Commission: (back row, from left) Endia Beal, David Finn, John Rushton, (front row) Elizabeth Repetti, Barbara Campbell, Heather Levinson, Janie Wilson and Harry Knabb

An artistic tribute to Larry Leon Hamlin, a water tank mural and a citywide portrait initiative are projects currently being commissioned by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Public Art Commission.

The 10-member Public Art Commission was appointed in 2016 by the Winston-Salem City Council and the Forsyth County commissioners to facilitate local public art. The Commission’s first two projects went up last year. One was the 11-foot tall steel book sculpture by Alabama artist Deedee Morrison that now stands in front of the Central Library on Fifth Street. Just down the street at the Benton Convention Center, the Commission’s other project can be seen as the works of 11 artists are on permanent display there. The variety or work includes Dennis Well’s 13-foot tall portrait of the late Poet Maya Angelou made out of her own quotes, ceramic sculpture by Randleman potter Joseph Sands, photographs by Owens Daniels of Winston-Salem and large abstract paintings by Charlotte artist Nico Amortegui.

“The whole point of public art is to bring not only awareness to the arts but to also give artists a voice and a vision,” said Commission member Endia Beal, who is an artist and director of Diggs Gallery at Winston-Salem State University.

The other commission members are:

*David Finn, art professor at Wake Forest University

*Harry Knabb, chair and CEO of Arts for Arts Sake (AFAS)

*Betsy Towns, UNC School of the Arts associate professor

*Elizabeth Repetti, attorney, Sawtooth board member

*Janie Wilson, business owner

*Jane Doub, president of Piedmont Craftsmen, Inc.

*Barbara Campbell, potter

*Heather Levinson, former marketing director for the Winston-Salem Theatre Alliance

*John Rushton, actor and producer

The commission solicits proposals for its projects. Committees that consist of several Commission members and project stake holders will narrow it down to one recommendation that is given to the Commission for approval.

For instance, about 20 artists applied for a piece to honor the late Larry Leon Hamlin that’ll hang in The Benton and will be on a similar scale to the Maya Angelou portrait. Hamlin is founder of both the North Carolina Black Repertory Company (NCBRC) and the National Black Theatre Festival (NBTF). The majority of the committee, which included his widow, Sylvia Sprinkle-Hamlin, voted to award the commission to New Orleans artist Aron Belka. Knabb was the one dissenting vote, both in the committee and when the Commission voted. He argued that it should be a local artist, and favored Owens Daniels, who he said knew Hamlin and the NBTF personally. The rest of the commission voted for the committee’s recommendation for Belka.

“There’s always going to be that tension between local artists and people who are coming in from outside. It’s something we’re always going to have to think about,” said Finn, who is the Commission’s chair.

Finn said that sometimes they’ll pick out-of-town artists for their projects, just as he hopes other cities will be open to picking Winston-Salem artists. The committee and Commission will next choose the design from the artist. The artwork is expected to be up in September.

Other projects include painting a water tank on Sides Road. The project is to paint a mural on the side of the tank that’s visible to 22,000 drivers daily that see the tank from Peters Creek Parkway. That area of the tank is 290 linear feet wide and 50 feet tall. Proposals included painting fish, waterfalls and even the eyes of a giant child on the tank. The committee has narrowed it down from about 50 artists to four that they’ll give feedback to and then receive final proposals from and do a Skype video interview with. Money for the project was given to the City by the Lidl Grocery store there after the store didn’t have time to complete a piece of public art to meet zoning requirements.

The Commission is currently seeking artists to submit for its Winston-Salem Portrait Project, which will be displayed downtown and at least eight other  places around the city. The idea is that the artwork will bridge divisions in the city and promote communication, understanding, compassion and empathy.

The commission is also accepting proposals for new public art projects. Forms to apply or suggest projects can be found on the Commission’s website:

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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