SURF CITY – Surf City has been toying with the idea of putting up a public mural for a few years now and finally decided to pull the trigger. This will be the city’s first public art installation and a priority project for the Beautification and Enhancement Committee.
The committee, made up of six people from the community, a city staff member and a council member, was recently revived. For nearly 20 years, the committee has been tasked with simply recognizing a Home and Business of the Month based on appealing aesthetics. Over the past year, the restructured committee has begun to take steps to improve the city.
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“You are doing exactly what you should be doing – doing what we want you to do: improving and beautifying our city,” council member Jeremy Shugarts told the committee when he presented his case for a mural on 20 may.
The Surf City Beautification and Improvement Committee has opened applications for artists to capture the essence of the coastal town in the form of a mural.
Artists may submit multiple submissions, but all must reflect Surf City imagery. Suggestions include the town’s history – which nevertheless includes pirates – coastal scenery, vacation life, wildlife, swing bridge, sea turtle sanctuary, Bumblebee towers, or general summer fun.
“It’s important for us to make it a sense of community pride,” BEC committee member Damien Buchanan told council. “People would want it to be a tourist attraction, to come and see the mural and take pictures in front of it.”
Nothing perceived as political, religious or vulgar will be accepted, the committee decided.
Depending on the application, submitted renders should contain enough 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, in the center of the city. It can be seen to the west as visitors cross the bridge from Surf City to the roundabout. Located behind the Atlantic Food Mart at Roland Avenue and South Topsail Drive, the L-shaped wall obscures the visibility of a pumping station from the parking lot and roundabout, near the water tower.
“Emphasis has been placed on the island roundabout to beautify the entrance to the crown jewel of our community,” Buchanan told City Council in May.
The committee presented its research and its proposal to submit an artist application during a Friday working session. The board voted unanimously to move forward, approving the use of approximately $9,000 of the committee’s $15,000 budget. He’s only spent about $1,000 a year in the past.
“There are costs to improve, but we haven’t improved anything yet,” Shugarts said. “It’s minimal costs to take something that’s an eyesore and make it enjoyable.”
Based on feedback from the Carolina Beach Mural Project, the Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County, and the Cape Fear Council of Governments, BEC created a list of best practices, including financial ones.
He will pay the chosen artist a commission of $8,040, based on the market rate per square meter. Representatives from the Carolina Beach Mural Project recommended the price of $15 per square foot. The artist would be paid in three installments: one-third when selected, one-third when the mural is finished, and the rest a few weeks later to ensure everything is finalized and approved.
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Mayor Doug Medlin – who has been lobbying 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, she finally decided that it was a lot of time and energy to ask someone for free. Also, the pool of selection would be more limited and possibly less professional, she surmised.
The artist’s fee will be fixed and will cover travel or board and lodging. The selected person will be responsible for procuring all supplies.
The city will do the prep work, pressure wash and paint the wall with white primer. It will also provide scaffolding if needed. The BEC has budgeted $500 for set-up expenses, which it hopes to reduce based on donations or volunteer work, and $500 for the costs of a facilitator or intermediary.
There are cracks and imperfections in the wall with which the artist can take creative license, the committee noted.
“Unless it’s structurally unsound, we hope the artist incorporates the crack into the design,” said BEC President Sandi Monroe.
Artists who apply must submit references and examples of previous work.
The BEC pays ArtExposure gallery owner Ellen Elder to be the artist’s point of contact to oversee the confidential selection process, select 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 a studio alongside a handful of others, in May 2009.
“Artists are unique, not like a normal salesperson or entrepreneur, and we want someone who understands artists and this community, but is also accountable to the community to get things done in a timely manner,” said Buchanan about choosing Elder as liaison. “She will be a buffer between the [town] personal, community and artist.
The BEC will vote on the design and application, based on Elder’s recommendation. The chosen artist must then provide a scale model of the mural which will be presented to the municipal council for final approval.
The committee hopes the artist will start painting by September 12 and finish within 20 days, depending on the weather.
The final design will be made in at least 30 prints, signed by the artist, for sale to community members.
Any experienced North Carolina muralist can apply by August 1 with a unique proposal. The artist will be selected by August 16.
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