Committee to soon accept artist applications for ‘Paint the Pavement’ project

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 23, 2021

By Natalie Anderson

SALISBURY — Local artist Taylor Ellerbee told Public Art Committee members on Monday applications will soon be open for local artists and community organizations to propose designs for “Paint the Pavement” project.

Ellerbee, who also owns Pier and Curtain Home Restoration, sparked the idea of painting local pavements last year after traveling to numerous small towns throughout the country before the pandemic. She has been using a draft document from a Charlotte project. Though the Salisbury rendition will be similar, Salisbury’s plan will only include five pavements within the Railwalk Arts District, including a mid-block crossing to connect two existing crosswalks on East Kerr Street.

Committee members formally voted to support the project in a participatory capacity. The next steps will involve compiling a selection committee that Ellerbee and Public Art Committee Chair Barbara Perry said should be fair, diverse and representative of Salisbury. It’s not determined yet, but members liked the idea of making the pavement project a yearly occurrence, which can keep the art timely and provide opportunities for local artists and organizations.

The paint being used is expected to last at least a year on streets with traffic of up to 10,000 vehicles, Ellerbee said.

The city will soon open a call for applications among local artists, neighborhood associations, community organizations and business associations. Ellerbee said the term “artist” is being defined broadly. It can range from a church organization to an elementary class to a 5-year-old artist. The proposed deadline for applications at this time is April 15.

Ellerbee said the paintings cannot include words, logos, commercial speech or advertising.

Once the selections are made, the project proposal will go before the Historic Preservation Commission in May, with an anticipated start in early to mid-June. The project will be funded by a $2,000 grant received by the Rowan Arts Council in December, with enough left to host a community “celebration” in the area once completed.

Perry asked about using the extra funds to compensate the artists, but Ellerbee said there aren’t enough funds to do that and that the goal is to keep it a grassroots, community-driven project. She and others are happy to entertain any interested professional artists, however.

“The primary objective is to bring color, vibrancy, life and people’s individual fingerprints to Salisbury,” Ellerbee said.

Committee member Jane Creech agreed to work with local art teachers in the school systems, citing a good opportunity for students to participate toward the end of the school year.

Also at the meeting, Salisbury Urban Design Planner Alyssa Nelson presented members with the recently selected items in the Salisbury Sculpture Show. There will be a total of 19 sculptures, with 11 located downtown.

The selection committee honored a request from Mayor Karen Alexander to keep for another year a bronze resin on steel pedestal piece paying homage to famous suffragist Lizzie Crozier French. The piece currently sits in the Salisbury City Hall, but with the building closed throughout the pandemic, Alexander wanted more opportunities for the community to view the art.

Additionally, a piece called “American Buffalo” that currently sits in the Rowan Museum will remain there for another year, but it will be turned around.

The “Cloud Deer” that currently sits at New Sarum Brewing on North Lee Street but will be moved elsewhere for another year. The artist was not selected this year but agreed to display it another year, Nelson said.

Other sculptures to be displayed for 2021 include:

• A brightly colored painted steel plate called “Tip See” at F&M Trolley Barn
• A bright red painted steel plate called “Critics Corner” at Lee Street theatre
• A copper with patina and painted steel piece called “New Wings/Rise” at Livingstone College
• A piece involving broken pieces of indigo-colored glass, epoxy and resin called “Indigo Glass Rectangular Prism” at Livingstone College
• A natural steel and aluminum piece “Key Winds” at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College
• A carved limestone and granite piece called “Love bound with Claws” at Catawba College
• A powder-coated aluminum piece called “Pages” at Catawba College
• A mixed metal piece called “Etain and Her Dog” at F&M Easy Street
• A powder-coated stainless steel piece called “Bicycle for Two” at Trinity Oaks
• An aluminum piece called “Candle in the Wind” at Trinity Oaks
• A CNC-milled hardwood, paint and sealant silo piece called “Collects” at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church
• A steel piece called “Sunrise, Sunset” at St. John’s Lutheran Church
• A scrap metal piece called “Two-Wheeled Freedom” at New Sarum Brewing
• A steel and paint piece called “In Motion” at Novant Health Rowan

A few of the sculptures have not yet been assigned. Those include a “rusty” steel piece called “Core Element,” a steel piece called “Visionarie II,” a green steel piece called “Hebe: Goddess of Youth” and a steel piece called “Celestial Motion.”

Members suggested the “Visionarie II” piece be considered for Magnolia Park, but that location is tricky as there are restrictions with base dimensions. Alexander suggested the “Hebe: Goddess of Youth” piece be placed at the Rowan Public Library as many young people visit there. It was suggested “Celestial Motion” be placed at the water plant on 400 N. Church St.

The selection committee suggested placing a rusted steel piece called “Urban Man” at the Farmers Market, Nelson said.

Nelson also told committee members that there is currently $35,095 in the budget for the Public Art Committee, which doesn’t include a $2,000 rollover amount or the $2,000 grant received from Rowan Arts Council for the “Paint the Pavement” project.

Installation is currently set for the spring, and staff are aiming for a “thank you” ceremony for both 2021 and 2020 artists in spring depending on COVID-19 restrictions in place at the time.

Other items discussed at the meeting:

• Gretchen Witt of the Rowan Public Library told committee members progress is being made with the installation of a marker that would commemorate the late Lula Kelsey and the city branch of the “Negro library” along the History and Art Trail. Kelsey and her husband were both involved with Noble & Kelsey Funeral Home, now at 223 E. Fisher St., which was established in 1902 to provide the community with the first Black funeral home. Witt said on Monday there may be two markers because she anticipates information currently being researched for the marker may be too long for just one.

In addition to the $5,000 currently in reserves for historical markers along the trail, Perry said she believes more funds could be raised if two markers were needed. She added that this project is “very, very important” as people in the community have been promised a commemoration for Kelsey.

• Nelson told committee members city staff are awaiting a certificate of appropriateness for the Actions in Faith and Justice Equal Justice Initiative historic marker, which will be located adjacent to the Oak Grove Freedman’s Cemetery. The marker will commemorate lynchings that occurred in 1906 while also telling a broader story about slavery, racial injustice and mass incarceration. Nelson anticipates it’ll take another couple months before the marker is ready for installation. Rev. Olen Bruner, co-chair of Actions in Faith and Justice, told members on Monday that he’s “looking for that light that’s bright ahead” and that this is “another good marker for the city of Salisbury as we deal with equity issues in our town.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story inaccurately stated that $35,095 was the total amount in the budget for the 2021 Sculpture Show. It has been updated to reflect that it is the current total budget amount for the Public Art Committee. The Post regrets this error. 

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at or call her at 704-797-4246.

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