Total eclipse of the art

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, August 1, 2023

SALISBURY — If someone walks down the winding streets of downtown Salisbury, they’ll see sculptures blending into the surrounding scenery.

Ten pieces of art in the city, and several others in Rowan County, make up the 2023 Salisbury Sculpture Show. Every year, the Salisbury Public Arts Commission connects with artists from across the state and country to submit their sculptures for a chance for them to be put on display.

Barbara Perry, chairman of the PAC, says the series came about back in 2008 when an artist suggested to the commission that they organize a temporary sculpture show in order to raise their tourism profile and help artists get their work seen.

“In the beginning, we chose only the downtown sites that were on the rights of way and art groups because we couldn’t afford to pay anybody to use their property,” Perry said.

Salisbury sends out notices to artists and groups to let them know to submit their work. A selection committee made up of volunteers is responsible for going through the submissions and picking the ones that will be in the show.

“We’ve had a good process for all these years,” Perry said.

The show has grown over time as local organizations and businesses have started volunteering for the art to be placed outside their buildings. There are eight additional sculptures at Livingstone College, Catawba College, Trinity Oaks, Horizons Unlimited, and Rowan-Cabarrus Community College besides the ones in downtown. The sculpture show has a free audio guide option through the Otocast app where people can hear all of the artists discuss their work as they go around the city. Brochures are available at multiple locations in Salisbury that show the location of each sculpture.

Thanks to a tourism grant, the “Salisbury Foursome” sculpture now sits at I-85 Exit 76 to greet anyone getting off the interstate. Even though the city contributes resources to the show, PAC relies on other methods for its funding.

“Almost nothing is paid for out of city funds, it’s done by grants and private donors,” Perry said.

A key aspect to the show is making sure each sculpture is placed in an appropriate area so it can “best complement the piece and its setting.”

“To put them in different places, we have to be careful how we choose so that it’s not just for the business, but it’s for the public also,” Perry said.

The PAC pays each artist a small fee for their art to be displayed for the year. All sculptures can be purchased by any individual or organization. Most of the money goes back to the artist if it is bought and the city collects a disclosed fee. In the past, people, organizations and colleges have bought the sculptures to have them be on display permanently, which is something Perry appreciates.

“That shows lots of people like to have art for what it does. It allows everybody an opportunity to enjoy public art,” Perry said.

The Salisbury Sculpture Show is a fully immersive experience that lets residents of Salisbury and beyond go through the city and see things that they may have never noticed before. Having these forms of expression in Salisbury shows how important they take cultural values and how a community can put in effort to give where they are from some character.

“We have been very fortunate that it has continued for this long,” Perry said.

The Salisbury Sculpture Show will run until April 2024.