Dearmons gift two public art sculptures to city of Kannapolis

Published 2:33 pm Tuesday, June 22, 2021

KANNAPOLIS — Cheryl and Eric Dearmon have gifted two public art sculptures, “Smiley” and “Discover,” to the city of Kannapolis.

Both sculptures are already located in the city and were on loan from the artist, Tom Risser. With their purchase, the Dearmons have ensured the sculptures will remain in the city as permanent pieces of public art.

“The gift of these two pieces of public art is a continuance of the precedence set by Dr. Harold Cook and his family and by Lynne & Wally Safrit, who have previously donated sculptures to the city. It is our desire that these gifts bring to light the wonderful revitalization that is occurring in Kannapolis. We hope that all citizens are taking advantage of the parks, greenways, art, concerts, events, etc. that our city is providing,” Cheryl Dearmon said in a news release.

Eric Dearmon said citizens benefit most from Kannapolis’ growth and expressed hope that his family’s gift will lead to others.

“Art is a vital part of any community. It spurs conversation, creativity, and pride in our community,” said Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant. “We are very appreciative of this significant gift from Cheryl and Eric as well as the many other ways they contribute to our city. Their involvement in numerous non-profits throughout the city and county has been invaluable over the years.”

Cheryl and Eric Dearmon are natives of Kannapolis. Cheryl is a vice president and branch manager for Uwharrie Bank. She has been in banking for 35 years. Eric is a senior vice president and private financial advisor for Truist Investment Services. He has been a financial adviser for 39 years. Their community involvement includes board of directors positions at the United Way, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, CMC Northeast Hospital Foundation, Crime Stoppers, Kannapolis Education Foundation and Downtown Kannapolis Inc.

“Smiley” is located on West Avenue and is already one of the most popular sculptures in Kannapolis. His welcoming face greets everyone with its whimsical expression and features.

The second sculpture is located in Village Park near the fountain and embodies the city’s brand, “Discover a Healthy Life.” This piece is also 10 feet tall. It features symbols of peace, love and health.

North Carolina artist Tom Risser created both pieces using stainless steel. Risser created the “Discover” piece after visiting the city and admiring the work done to revitalize the downtown.

“It is incredible to see how vibrant the city’s downtown has become in such a short period of time,” Risser said. “Everywhere you look you see people enjoying a walk, a run or cycling. New businesses are opening. The energy here is an inspiration to me and I wanted to capture that with the sculpture.”

An engineer by day, Risser is president of U.S. Bottlers Machinery Company in Charlotte. He is a graduate of Guilford College with a degree in mathematics and engineering and an electrical engineering degree from North Carolina State University.

Twenty years ago, he began taking leftover materials from his company’s products and formed them into sculptures. As a self-taught artist, he has experimented with many different types of mediums, including fused glass, polycarbonate, stone, paintings, shotcrete and photography.

In 2016, he had a heart attack and subsequently heart bypass surgery. Since then, he has incorporated hearts into many pieces of his work.

He is also known for skateboarding. He is the creator of local skateboard facilities that include WXW Sk8, The Blair Witch Ramp, Whip Snake Park and Tom’s Bowl. He has been featured on HGTV, Offbeat America, ESPN: Tony Hawk’s Giant Skatepark Tour and Carolina Traveler. He and his wife, Daisy, have a son, Sam, and a daughter, Carson.

To make a donation for public art to the city of Kannapolis, contact Annette Privette Keller, director of communications, at or 704-920-4311.