Town’s public art celebrates history, heritage

Public art can be a tricky business for a town, given the wide range of public tastes.

For years, Waynesville boasted rotating pieces of public art downtown. But it was labor intensive to find artists willing to lend pieces for a short-term basis, let alone installing and uninstalling them.

So several years ago the town appointed an official public art commission to select permanent public artwork.

There have been three pieces installed to date:

• An enormous sculpture of men playing a washtub bass and banjo.

• A whimsical tribute to the international Folkmoot music and dance festival.

• A hand-forged railing paying homage to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

For past pieces, the public art commission put out a general call to artists, narrowed it down to the top three and asked them to submit their concepts. Artists were given wide poetic license to come up with a design, and the commission then voted on which one it liked best.

For the arch, however, the public art commission has developed schematics for the piece, simplifying the artist selection process and a quicker timeline for the project, according to Ed Kelley, a member of the art commission involved in the arch project.

The piece has structural parameters, specific dimensions and wording.

“It has been very much an exercise in logistics,” Kelley said.

The lettering on the arch won’t be cut out like a stencil, but instead mounted on the face of the arch on both sides. Stencil lettering is harder to read, and can only be viewed properly from one side, Kelley said.

The public art commission will move forward with bids from artists this fall and hopes to have the arch installed by this time next year.

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