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Brick wall to contain students' artwork

By Mark Wineka
mwineka@salisburypost
Masons dodged spits of rain this week and steadily built the serpentine wall that will hold student-created tiles and a new marker noting the importance of cotton mills to Salisbury and Rowan County history.
The Public Art Committee, assisted by Salisbury Senior Planner Lynn Raker, has overseen the project.
The pocket park at the corner of South Church and West Fisher streets will have the brick wall as its centerpiece. It’s in the far end of Wachovia Bank’s parking lot.
The project will include street trees and landscaping, mostly along South Church Street, a new tree behind the wall, a couple of benches, connecting walkways and an interpretive sign for the nearby mural.
Contained in the wall will be a Salisbury History and Art Trail marker and 87 tiles made by fourth-grade art students from Rowan County’s 20 elementary schools and three private schools.
A crew from R.T. Timberlake Masonry Inc. has been laying the bricks, which were salvaged from the recent demolition of the former Kesler Mill/Cannon Mills Plant No. 7 in the Park Avenue neighborhood.
The bronze History and Art Trail includes this text:
“Religious fervor provided the impetus for establishing Rowan County’s post-Civil War textile industry. On Nov. 9, 1887, during a three-week revival held in the Farmer’s Warehouse on this site, the Rev. R.G. Pearson, a visiting evangelist, called for the building of factories to provide employment. The momentum of the revival led the Rev. Francis J. Murdoch and other local leaders to organize the Salisbury Cotton Mills. The cornerstone was laid on Aug. 2, 1888. By 1900, Rowan County had become a leading producer of textiles.”
The student tiles started going into the wall Thursday, when trees also were delivered.
The Rowan County fourth-graders, about two to four per school, came together about a year ago during a couple of Saturday workshops.
The children sculpted their clay, 8-inch-square tiles and had them fired at Waterworks. They were asked to design textile-related tiles, reflecting things such as cotton, looms, factories and spindles.
Sixteen county art teachers were instrumental in the students’ participation, and artist Ray Moose also led a tile-making workshop for the teachers in August 2008.
Grants from the Blanche and Julian Robertson Family Foundation ($5,000), the N.C. Division of Forest Resources ($7,540) and Woodson Foundation ($1,000) helped pay for the project.
The city of Salisbury budgeted $9,250 toward the Public Art Committee this year, and some (not all) of those funds were used for the pocket park.
George Culver, whose company demolished the Kesler Mill, donated the bricks. Wachovia Bank also was crucial to the project.
A formal dedication, including students and teachers, will come later.
Raker said it has been a rewarding project, especially in seeing the students’ dedication in making the tiles and learning some of the history behind textiles.
“They enjoyed it so much,” she said.

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