Long-anticipated art panels installed at Waterworks Visual Arts Center

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 30, 2020

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 “To say it’s been a long process is the understatement of the decade,” says Anne Scott Clement, Executive Director of Waterworks Visual Arts Center, as she dances with excitement over the long-anticipated installation of two enormous art panels mounted on the outside of the museum. Her idea began in 2006 and today, after some 13 years and many hours of collaboration, the stunning pair of signs, each 20-feet tall and 68-inches wide, has come to fruition.

The purpose of this identity project is to enhance Waterworks’ façade and its presence in the arts district with a two-fold plan, the first being the large-scale art panels. Part two, the strategic placement of matching banners on the light posts along E. Liberty Street, is still to be accomplished.

In tandem, the art panels and banners not only add a pop of color and artistry to the complex, but also increase exposure and ensure visibility and wayfinding for visitors to the museum and to our city. Presently, visitors to Salisbury, with the intention of visiting WVAC, have to ask for directions.

Current wayfinding signage takes tourists to a point, but not to the museum. The new art panels are visible to travelers from at least one block north and/or south along North Main and West Liberty streets. The banners, once installed on E. Liberty Street, will direct visitors traveling by train, car, trolley or bus as well as those taking a walking tour from the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority (RCTDA).

Waterworks Visual Arts Center is one of only 12 nationally-accredited art museums in North Carolina, and the only teaching museum within a 40-mile radius. This not-for-profit organization anchors Salisbury’s East Square Cultural Arts District and provides diverse opportunities in the arts for all people through exhibitions, education, and outreach programs.

Established in 1959 as the Rowan Art Guild, the arts center adopted its current name after its 1977 transition to a non-collecting public art gallery in a building that formerly housed the city water department. In 1986, Waterworks emerged as a professionally managed organization where ideas, issues, and communities now converge to promote creative thinking and to unite a diverse community through the arts.

With growing community and public support, Waterworks successfully raised $2.8 million, and in 2002 renovated a historic building as the region’s only public visual arts center. With more than 15,000 square feet, Waterworks provides space for five professional galleries, three education galleries, three outdoor sculpture/sensory gardens, studios/classrooms, clay studio, and photography darkroom. It also houses retail museum shop and support services for its innovative program of exhibitions, classes, workshops, and outreach activities. Waterworks Visual Arts Center is a cultural asset and destination, a vibrant collaborative space for lifelong learning, and an economic engine for Salisbury and Rowan County.

Shepherding an idea from concept to reality can be quite an arduous and lengthy process, as there are many stakeholders to consider. Patience and determination through years of starts and stops was rewarded with the revision and update of the City of Salisbury’s Sign Ordinance in October of 2017, which allowed Waterworks to rekindle discussions about the art panels with Bill Burgin of Ramsay Burgin Smith Architects. Construction and architectural renderings for the art panels and street pole banners created by Dan Norman, Ramsay Burgin Smith Architects were ready by the next month. Conversations with the City of Salisbury and RCTDA, structural design by Sign Art of Charlotte and graphic design by Megan Ferden of The Lettered Lily continued through 2018-2019.

With receipt of the zoning permit, fabrication of the art panels commenced. Anne Scott received word last week that the installation of the panels would take place on January 20, 2020. The Board of Directors and staff of Waterworks Visual Arts Center will not soon forget this exciting day. “We are grateful to all those who invested their time and spirit to bring this project to life,” says Clement. “You can see us from Main Street, and know what Waterworks is about!”

Art for All, for everyone, for free, six days a week.

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