Angels to reappear downtown but project coming to an end

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 10, 2013

SALISBURY — If you’ve missed the Christmas angels in downtown Salisbury this year, look for some of them to reappear — possibly for the last time — in storefronts later this week.
Merchants have until Wednesday to let Downtown Salisbury Inc. know if they would like to display an angel in their business. Someone will deliver the angels Thursday or Friday, said Mark Lewis, president of DSI.
But most of the 39 eight-foot-tall wooden angels will remain in storage, and the popular program is likely coming to an end.
Downtown Salisbury owns the angels — handpainted by local artists and displayed every Christmas season since 2001 — but has no money or manpower for annual upkeep, storage, installation and removal.
The angel program was cut from the DSI budget in 2011. That year, most of the angels remained in storage, although an anonymous benefactor arranged to have four of them installed at St. John’s Lutheran Church five days before Christmas.
In 2012, Salisbury-Rowan Tourism came up with roughly $2,000 to pay for the installation of 16 angels on new wooden frames that surrounded trees and lampposts on the Square. But the wooden frames were a flop, Lewis said.
“Those were universally unpopular, and those will not be repeated,” he said. “It wasn’t a very good way of presenting them, and it wasn’t complementary to the Christmas image we are trying to present.”
At one point, Salisbury-Rowan Tourism talked about taking over the angel project, but Executive Director James Meacham said caring for the heavenly hosts is not a “permanent function” of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“It’s not one of our core projects at this time,” Meacham said.
The tourism authority invested $65,000 over two years on upgrading Christmas decorations in downtown Salisbury, including new wreaths, flags and lights and hosts Scrooge’s Christmas Trolley Tour.
The angel project has run its course, Meacham said, unless the original sponsors or members of the community want to take over.
“There’s no permanent solution for upkeep,” Meacham said.
After more than a decade of use, the angels are showing their age, Lewis said. They need regular maintenance, and DSI board members and staff are not artists, he said.
Downtown Salisbury is offering to return each angel to the original artist or sponsor. To claim an angel, call 704-637-7814.
“We don’t want to dispose of them,” Lewis said. “We like them too.”
Lewis, a volunteer, has been leading DSI while the organization searches for a new executive director to replace Randy Hemann. But Lewis has a full-time job as a banker.
The angels are “more than DSI can handle right now,” Meacham said.
Like the mural in downtown Salisbury, the angels are a form of handpainted public art. But unlike the mural, the angels require annual installation, removal and storage, Meacham said.
The mural also has a nonprofit organization that raises money for the painting’s maintenance and upkeep, Meacham said.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.