SURF CITY — Surf City has toyed around with the idea of implementing a public mural for some years now and finally has decided to pull the trigger. This will be the town’s first public art installation and was a priority project for the beautification and enhancement committee.
The committee, comprising six people from the community, one city staff member and a council member, has been recently revived. For almost 20 years the committee was tasked with simply recognizing a house and business of the month based on appealing aesthetics. Within the last year, the restructured committee began taking steps toward town enhancement.
“You’re doing exactly what you should be doing — doing what we want you to do: enhance and beautify our city,” council member Jeremy Shugarts told the committee when it presented its case for a mural May 20.
The Surf City Beautification and Enhancement Committee has opened submissions for artists to capture the essence of the coastal town in the form of a mural.
Artists can submit multiple proposals but all must be reflective of Surf City imagery. Suggestions include the town’s history — which includes pirates, nonetheless — coastal landscapes, vacation life, wildlife, the swing bridge, sea turtle sanctuary, Bumblebee Towers or general summer fun.
“It’s important for us to make this a community sense of pride,” BEC committee member Damien Buchanan told council. “People would want this to be a tourist attraction, to come see the mural and take pictures in front of it.”
Nothing that is perceived as political, religious or vulgar will be accepted, the committee decided.
According to the application, submitted renderings should contain sufficient detail to convey the artist’s concept in terms of style, colors, inspiration and content, as well as a proposed name for the project.
The canvas is a 536-square-foot concrete wall, central to the town. It can be seen to the west as visitors cross the Surf City Bridge into the roundabout. Located behind the Atlantic Food Mart, at Roland Avenue and South Topsail Drive, the L-shaped wall screens the visibility of a pump station from the parking lot and traffic circle, near the water tower.
“There’s been an emphasis to focus on the island roundabout to beautify the entrance to the crown jewel of our community,” Buchanan told town council in May.
The committee presented its research and plan for submitting a request for artists during a Friday work session. The board voted unanimously to move forward, approving the use of roughly $9,000 of the committee’s $15,000 budget. It’s only ever spent about $1,000 annually in the past.
“There is cost involved to enhance, but we haven’t enhanced anything yet,” Shugarts said. “These are minimal costs to take something that’s an eyesore and make it nice.”
Based on feedback from the Carolina Beach Mural Project, Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County, and the Cape Fear Council of Governments, the BEC created a list of best practices, including financials.
It will pay the chosen artist an $8,040 commission, based on the market rate of square-footage. Carolina Beach Mural Project representatives recommended the pricing of $15 per square foot. The artist would be paid in three installments: one-third when he or she is selected, one-third when the mural is complete, and the remaining a few weeks later to ensure everything is finalized and approved.
Mayor Doug Medlin — who has been pushing for the mural for three years — said the initial idea was to ask local artists to volunteer their time to do the work.
BEC board member Trudy Solomon said she had a similar thought. After conversations with local artists, ultimately, she decided it’s a lot of time and energy to ask of someone for free. Also, the selection pool would be more limited and possibly not as professional, she surmised.
The artist’s fee will be all-inclusive and cover travel or room and board. The selected individual will be required to procure all supplies.
The town will do the prep work, pressure-washing and painting the wall with white primer. It will also provide scaffolding if needed. The BEC budgeted $500 for setup expenses, which it’s hoping to lower based on donations or volunteer work and $500 for a facilitator, or intermediary, fee.
There are some cracks and blemishes in the wall the artist can take creative license with, the committee noted.
“Unless it’s structurally unsound, we hope the artist will integrate the crack into the design,” BEC chair Sandi Monroe said.
Artists who apply must submit references and examples of past work.
The BEC is paying ArtExposure gallery owner Ellen Elder to be the artist’s point of contact to oversee the confidential selection process, screen applicants, advise the BEC on a selection and coordinate the logistics of the work. Elder has been an art teacher for 30 years and opened her Hampstead-based gallery, where she has studio space alongside a handful of others, in May 2009.
“Artists are unique, not like a normal vendor or contractor, and we want someone who understands artists and that community but also be responsible to the community to get things done in a timely manner,” Buchanan said of choosing Elder to be the liaison. “She will be a buffer between the [town] staff, community and artist.”
The BEC will vote on the design and application, based on Elder’s recommendation. The chosen artist will then be required to provide a scaled mock-up of the mural to be presented to town council for final approval.
The committee hopes the artist will begin painting by Sept. 12 and wrap within 20 days, weather pending.
The final design will be made into at least 30 prints, signed by the artist, to sell to community members.
Any experienced North Carolina muralist can apply by Aug. 1 with a unique proposal. The artist will be selected by Aug. 16.
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