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Editorial: Mural that reflects Salisbury’s diversity worth seeing through to completion

Murals that aim to promote a city’s diversity do not tend to stoke fierce opposition, but that’s exactly what’s happening as Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins works to drum up support for the idea.

Heggins on Tuesday presented a proposal devoid of any political affiliations, but it was tainted in the mind of her critics and some council members by a previous proposal to paint “Black Lives Matter” on a street. The simple act of saying “Black Lives Matter” or, in this case, painting it somewhere draws a negative connotations in communities like Rowan County. In addition to public comments on Tuesday, a perceived ulterior motive was clear in statements from council members who said they were glad the revised idea did not include any political connections.

Using examples from other cities, Heggins said the revised mural aims to bring people together through a shared vision, enliven city spaces and, among other things, shout “everyone belongs.” It’s a way to come together after what’s been a relatively divisive time in Salisbury, she says.

Regardless of whether people are skeptical about the mural idea, Salisbury should collectively seize the opportunity to create something new about which all the city’s residents can be proud. The city has a rich history of embracing the arts through public displays such as the Salisbury Sculpture Show. The Salisbury Symphony took on a project a few years ago to place pianos that had been decorated by middle school students in downtown locations. Notably, a large mural featuring Salisburians who made their mark on the city fills a large wall in a parking lot on West Fisher Street.

The mural project Heggins has proposed should involve extensive public comment and contributions from public, including members of the Public Art Committee and those who don’t serve on a board. That will require months of work and involve some debate about what a diversity mural should look like in Salisbury. Should it feature people and places? If so, which people and places? Who will paint the mural? Where will it go? Who pays for the supplies and artists’ work?

If the city is interested in seeing the project to its completion, Tuesday’s council discussion will only be the beginning of what’s likely to be a process of months. If the council wants to start the process, it will have to determine the best start point for future debate. If the council prefers the see the idea form organically, there could be some period of waiting before further progress occurs.

Whatever the method, a mural that truly reflects the diversity that makes Salisbury special is worth seeing through to completion. While there will be debate about the contents, the final product should be something that unites us.

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