The Town of North Wilkesboro is working with the Wilkes Art Gallery on a conceptual plan for finishing the mural on the back wall of the Yadkin Valley Marketplace, left partially completed the last two years.
Town Manager Wilson Hooper said Monday, “We’re short on specifics because we don’t know them yet. It’s just a concept at this point. Once we get a few more details, I’ll bring it to our board (of commissioners) for their blessing and then we’ll proceed.”
Hooper said the tentative plan is to bring the concept for completing the mural to the board at its regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 7, rescheduled from Nov. 5. He said Wilkes Art Gallery Executive Director Ashley Barton will likely work on it with her board between now and the Nov. 7 meeting.
Barton said Monday that the current concept for completing the mural is to divide it into three manageable sections, with the gallery funding and facilitating completion of one section.
Sources of funding for the other two sections isn’t clear. Hooper noted, “Other than (the gallery’s) commitment to pay for the artist for one section, our discussions haven’t really gotten to funding yet.”
Barton commented, “Public art is transformative. It not only changes a physical space, but becomes a community centerpiece. We believe that this project will have a positive impact on Wilkes County.”
She said the gallery is accepting proposals from potential mural artists for the gallery’s section. Artists interested in being considered should email Barton at Ashley@wilkesartgallery.org by Nov. 1.
In April 2016, the commissioners approved hiring Will Davis to paint the mural, contingent upon design approval.
Town board minutes show it was approved as a $20,000 project in April 2016, with $4,000 apiece from the town and the Wilkes Art Gallery in 2016 and 2017 for a total of $16,000. Funding was also to include a Downtown North Wilkesboro Partnership grant of $2,000 in 2016 and 2017 for a total of $4,000.
Minutes say the Cultural Arts Council possibly was going to contribute $2,000 in 2017, and the town was going to assist with wall preparation, pressure washing/priming and use of a lift truck.
Hooper said Davis, a Wilkes native and Charlotte resident, has until Dec. 31 to finish the job. He said it doesn’t appear that Davis will complete it so the town is proceeding with the assumption that he won’t.
Davis worked on the 380-foot-long, 15-foot-tall mural in the summers of 2016 and 2017. Davis designed the mural, and he and honors art students from Wilkes Central, West Wilkes and East Wilkes high schools started drawing the outline and painting the mural in June 2016 and resumed work in June 2017.
Hooper said Davis so far has been paid $5,000 for his work on the mural. He said this includes $1,000 from the North Wilkesboro Downtown Partnership in April 2017 and $4,000 from the Wilkes Art Gallery.
“The (gallery) also made an in-kind contribution of paint and supplies, some of which we’ll try to use again this time around,” added Hooper.
Plans for the mural in 2016 and 2017 were to feature prominent people throughout Wilkes County’s history, as well as physical and economic events that shaped the county.
Davis earlier told the Wilkes Journal-Patriot that he designed the mural to reflect the rich history of Wilkes County. The newspaper reached Davis Saturday but didn’t receive answers to questions about the mural work by press time Monday.
Work completed on the western end of the wall depicts natural elements from the late 1700s such as Catawba and Cherokee Indians and well-known figures such as Wilkes County namesake John Wilkes, an English politician who supported American independence, and frontiersman Daniel Boone.
Only background work has been completed on the middle and eastern sections of the wall. It was planned to transition chronologically from the 1800s to the present, where it would end with trees, fruits and other plants found today in Wilkes County.
Davis’s original plan was to transition seasonally from one end to the other, starting with a cool winter background on the west, and ending with the warm colors of fall near the Window World stage.
Designed for the far eastern side of the Yadkin Valley Marketplace was a rectangular sign with the inscription “Greetings from North Wilkesboro,” similar to popular postcard designs. A recap of historic events throughout the town’s history was planned inside the letters of “North Wilkesboro.”
Davis earlier said he hoped the mural would serve as a teaching tool to educate students and residents of Wilkes County about their history.
Art students who worked on the mural include William Walker, Graylan Walker, Sydney Bell, Rachel Canter, Julia Harrison, Trey Warren, Kaitlynn Wagoner, Mackenzie Johnson, Mikayla Howell and Zoe Palmer.
Olympic Paint and PPG Paint donated dozens of gallons of paint for the project.