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Groundwork still being laid for community ‘Paint the Pavement’ project; expected to begin in spring

By Natalie Anderson
natalie.anderson@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — While community members are still collaborating on “Paint the Pavement” specifics, the Rowan Arts Council has approved a grant proposal for  $2,000. The effort would precede a long-term downtown diversity mural.

Whitney Wallace Williams, former chair of Downtown Salisbury Inc., is involved with both projects, She submitted a grant proposal in August to the Rowan Arts Council, which approved it at a Dec. 8 meeting.

“We are extremely grateful to RAC for supporting this project,” Wallace Williams said. “Our intention is to draw a wide variety of artists and increased engagement and artistic expression to the downtown.”

Taylor Ellerbe, a local artist who sparked the idea of painting local pavements after traveling to numerous small towns throughout the nation before the pandemic, said she is currently outlining Salisbury’s plan using a draft document from a Charlotte project. But while Charlotte allowed the local community to determine the pavements for the project, Ellerbe said Salisbury’s plan is to work with the city to pre-designate the areas of town for the project.

“We’re excited that we were given the opportunity to move the project forward with the support of the grant we received,” Ellerbe said. “We are making good progress on laying the groundwork for the basic rules and requirements for the approval process.”

Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins presented the idea of a downtown diversity mural to city council members at a July 21 meeting as a way to bring people together through a shared vision using the arts, enliven city spaces, align with the city’s efforts to strengthen infrastructure, drive public-led initiatives and shout, “Everyone belongs.”

The plan she presented at the meeting stated she would convene a group of local artists to bring to the council their scope of the project, which would include a design idea, content, proposed location, timeline, costs and suggestions on any other experts needed.

That project, however, is more of a long-term goal, while the “Paint the Pavement” project is ongoing and expected to begin in the spring, both Ellerbe and Wallace Williams said.

Spring is an ideal time, Ellerbe said, as there are stipulations with painting times and winter weather can compromise the paint quality.

Both projects will stem from grassroots efforts, and Ellerbe said it’s been decided by members involved that the pavement project will go hand-in-hand with the downtown diversity mural.

Ellerbe said once the draft of the proposed plan is complete, it will be brought before the Public Arts Committee and will need input from city officials. Downtown Salisbury Inc. will also be part of the collaborative effort.

Since August, Ellerbe has met with the city to discuss general ideas and the feasibility of the project. While a total of 22 crosswalks were initially discussed, Ellerbe said it’s become clear that the project would need to hone in on a few key areas, with the downtown Railwalk Arts District determined to be an ideal place to start.

In August, Wallace-Williams estimated the pavement project would cost around $4,300, with $1,000 coming from DSI and remaining funds raised by private donors. But now that the project has been limited to the Arts District, it will cost less. However, a price has not yet been determined as the project will likely require a facilitator to be hired, she added.

Ellerbe said some local community members have already expressed interest in providing financial support for the project.

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

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