More public art the topic at Fayetteville A&P subcommittee meeting

Local artist Matt Miller’s 88-foot mural, entitled “Universal Inquiry,” hangs near the Town Center plaza in downtown Fayetteville where another new piece of public art is planned.

Photo: Todd Gill, Flyer staff

Recent discussion about murals could spark a new public art program in Fayetteville in the coming months.

Members of the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission recently agreed to pay local artist Jason Jones to paint a giant mural across the west wall of the Executive Square building at the Fayetteville Town Center plaza.

As part of their decision commissioners had to decide between several design options, and eventually chose a colorful tree and a tree swing with the words “enjoy local” inscribed on it.

The project excited commissioners, but also caused some alarm.

Original sketches courtesy Jason Jones

Commissioner Hannah Withers said last month she is a personal fan of Jones’ work, but said the commission should act quickly to adopt a process for handling future requests for public art funding.

“I’m concerned about what kind of door it’s opening for us to be funding and jurying art,” said Withers. “I want the door to be open, but I think we need to do some leg work on future discussions about how this should work.”

Withers said not all applicants will be skilled, professional artists who fully understand the design and implementation process – as well as the sustainability factors – of a large-scale piece of public art.

If murals are funded by tax dollars, Withers said it’s the commission’s responsibility to make sure the work is done “by people who definitely have the skills and education to do it properly.”

Commissioner Matthew Petty agreed.

“I don’t think we should be jurying anything at all,” Petty said Tuesday during an A&P subcommittee meeting to discuss the public art process.

Petty suggested that a third-party group, such as the Fayetteville Arts Council, could begin to act as a jury for future projects.

The volunteer board, which includes four working artists and five residents at-large, meets when needed to review proposed art projects on city-owned land. Petty said some legislative changes would be required to allow the group to weigh in on proposed artwork on private property, such the Executive Square building where Jones’ mural will be painted. Although the new mural will be viewable from the city-owned Town Center plaza on the south side of the square, the building is privately owned by the Bradberry family.

As for funding more projects, commissioners suggested a couple of options.

Withers said the group could dedicate a portion of the leftover money it awards to applicants twice each year for planned projects and festivals. She also suggested eliminating special funding requests altogether to focus more on large-scale projects.

Petty seemed more on board with the latter idea.

“Most A&P’s don’t do special funding requests,” said Petty, who suggested that the group consider creating a dedicated public art fund.

Petty said it’s not uncommon for some cities to set aside a percentage of gross revenues strictly to finance public art projects.

The subcommittee group agreed to wait until at least August to continue the discussion with the full commission.

However long it takes, Withers said she’s dedicated to finding a sustainable way to fund a public art program in Fayetteville.

“I want us to be very active,” said Withers. “I think we have way too much talent here and a lot of unutilized space. Whether it’s downtown, uptown, east town, or west town, I want to see Fayetteville sparkle a little more.”