Tom Joyce Staff Reporter
January 2, 2014
This spring, larger-than-life sculptures of fiddles will dot the downtown Mount Airy landscape — but a loan by a local craftsman is allowing a head start on that type of public art display here.
Various pieces by Charles “Chazz” Elstone have been placed at different locations around town, to the delight of the public and downtown leaders.
“People have been happy to see them,” Main Street Coordinator Lizzie Morrison said Tuesday of the sculptures by Elstone, a resident of the Beulah community who specializes in metal items.
Elstone might retrieve old tractor parts at a farm auction or pluck pieces of steel from a junkyard. He then transforms then into unique creations at his Stone House Metal Works operation on N.C. 89 near Interstate 77, using such equipment as torches, grinders and an arc welder.
Giant birds, insects, flower planters and other examples of artwork — hundreds in all — have resulted over the years. Elstone’s creations have shown up at art shows, stores and in collections stretching from Canada to New York City, Florida and New Mexico.
Now downtown Mount Airy can be added to the list.
“It sort of unfolded when we were planning the art walk,” Morrison said of a December event organized by downtown promoters which led to Elstone’s sculptures being displayed.
Elstone, who moved to Surry County from the Buffalo area of western New York state in 2006, had expressed interest in exhibiting some of his metal sculptures during the art walk. However, this was impractical for that event lasting just one day, given the work required to display them.
That led to Elstone loaning sculptures on a temporary basis, which recently have showed up at strategic locations. Included are the Mount Airy War Memorial, where the image of an eagle now stands guard; outside the Blue House Teaching Studio and Gallery on North Main Street; at the small city park at the intersection of North Main and Pine streets; and outside Reeves Community Center.
“It was just an easy connection to get more public art downtown,” said Morrison, who made such displays a priority when becoming Main Street coordinator in July.
“Chazz is a good example of the artistic talent we have in Mount Airy,” Morrison said. “There are so many artists here.”
Aside from the brick-and-mortar presence of the central business district, Morrison believes there is an artistic side that is important to its well-being in terms of attracting shoppers and visitors downtown.
“Public art is well-received,” she said.
“We have had several positive comments from residents, visitors and even students that are home visiting for the holidays,” city Parks and Recreation Director Catrina Alexander observed of Elstone’s sculptures.
“I am so grateful that Mr. Elstone has offered to share these works with the people of Mount Airy,” added Alexander, who had explored having Elstone’s artwork displayed outside Reeves Community Center even before the recent art walk.
The sculptures will remain on loan for several months, until being moved back to Elstone’s sculpture garden and an ice cream parlor he owns on N.C. 89 in the spring when it reopens for the season.
In the meantime, plans will progress for the first-ever fiddle crawl, which will involve local artists preparing 220-pound sculptures in the shape of that instrument to promote tourism and the local art and musical communities. The fiddle sculptures will be displayed in various areas downtown and then publicly auctioned next fall to raise funds for economic-development projects.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.