Kluttz takes part in dedication for new trolleys, sculpture
SALISBURY — Salisbury is now home to two new trolleys and a permanent, amphibious resident made of bronze.
N.C. Secretary of Cultural Resources Susan Kluttz visited her hometown on Thursday to unveil a piece of public art at Main and Liberty streets.
The metal sculpture, called “Jeremiah” and created by artist Roger Martin, was part of the Salisbury sculpture show for a year. It has captured the hearts of children, visitors and local residents — including one in particular, Kluttz said.
Kluttz then dedicated the sculpture to Paul Fisher, chairman and CEO of F&M Bank, as a group of community leaders looked on.
“It is dedicated to him because of the commitment he has made to art and culture in Salisbury and Rowan County,” Kluttz said. “Jeremiah the frog, as of today, is a permanent resident of Salisbury. He is now a Salisburian.”
A stunned Fisher thanked those responsible for buying the sculpture from Martin — the Salisbury Tourism Development Authority (TDA) and the city of Salisbury’s Public Art Committee.
“I fell in love with Jeremiah, and all the kids did,” he said. “Every kid in town, every time they turned the corner, their mama had to toot the horn to Jeremiah. When Jeremiah left, honestly, I was heartbroken.”
The Salisbury TDA and the Public Art Committee have worked together to set aside some of the city’s capital funds to purchase a new public art piece annually, said James Meacham, executive director of the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority. This one came at a cost of $8,500 and is the first permanent art piece the groups have installed through that effort.
Kluttz said she came to appreciate how important art and culture are to a community during the time she served as mayor of Salisbury. It’s not just about quality of life, she said, but about economic development through tourism and job creation.
“I’m thrilled to be back here,” Kluttz said. “When it comes to art and cultural preservation, Salisbury is a leader in the state.”
The sculpture dedication took place just after the Rowan County and Salisbury tourism development authorities and F&M Bank dedicated two new trolleys on Thursday at the F&M Trolley Barn.
The previous trolleys were bought nearly 15 years ago through the contributions of F&M, the Robertson Foundation and private individual donors.
Bill Burgin, chairman of the Salisbury TDA, said those trolleys were beautiful, but “their guts weren’t very good.” Still, tourism officials managed to keep them running, thanks to maintenance provided by the city of Salisbury.
In late 2012, the Salisbury TDA got the opportunity to buy two new trolleys for $290,000.
“Not only do they look good on the outside, but they are good on the inside,” Burgin said. “I promise you that if you rent one of these for an event or any kind of social engagement, that we will get you where you want us to take you. You can count on it. It’s not going to stop on I-85 with the engine not running.” He also thanked F&M for its continued sponsorship of the trolley system, which is now called the F&M Bank Trolley System.
Fisher said “it’s been a miracle” that the trolley system is still working.
“Through the city maintenance department, through volunteers and through stealing parts,” he said, drawing a chuckle from the crowd, “we were able to keep the trolleys going.”
Fisher’s son and F&M Bank president, Steve Fisher, said city of Salisbury staff didn’t just maintain the trolleys, they actually built parts for them.
“They kept them running and made them part of the community,” he said. “I’d like to thank the TDA for making the decision to reinvest in this system. It has become such a part of who we are, and it’s a visual part of downtown Salisbury.”
Meacham said the system is keeping one of the old trolleys on hand as a backup. During busy times like the holiday season, he said, the system could use a third trolley.
The other has been donated to the N.C. Transportation Museum in Spencer, which is using it as an onsite shuttle. The museum has more maintenance staff to keep it running, Meacham said.
Paul Fisher said he has ridden in one of the new trolleys and loved it.
“When people work together in this city,” he said, “and when people put their heads together for the common good, we can collectively create great things.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.