Downtown Mount Airy will transform in the first weekend of May, with large three-dimensional fiddle sculptures blooming with art, created by a select group of local artists who are lending their creative talents to launch the first Fiddle Crawl, a public art initiative sponsored by the Mount Airy Downtown group.
Artists chosen for the project gathered in downtown Mount Airy last week for the first artist meeting, which included a time to meet one another and share the inspiration behind their design ideas.
Downtown Coordinator Lizzie Morrison gave each artist a packet of information to launch them into the creative projects, including advice on what type of paint to use — paint that will ensure their creations will be protected, since the fiddles will be on exhibit throughout the downtown Mount Airy area from May through October.
Morrison said the artists needed to use professional-grade acrylic paint with a high resin level, in order to keep the paint from fading from sunlight over time. She also reminded the artists not to use much water to dilute the paint, which would “affect adhesion and color permanence” since the fiddle sculptures would remain outside. After completion, sculptures will be clear-coated to protect them from the elements.
Artist Kayla Ellis of Mount Airy, whose metaphorical design includes inspiration from dressmakers, quilters, and women artists who inspire her, said she was truly honored to be chosen as one of the artists. “I started to tear up, thinking that my children would have a legacy of my art in our town,” Ellis said, describing her initial reaction to the news her design was chosen.
Philip Ernst of Cana, Va., a lifelong artist, said he was “thrilled” to hear that Downtown Coordinator Lizzie Morrison was helping to create opportunities for local artists to “show off and expand our art community.” Ernst said his design incorporated native flowers with Mount Airy Granite, which was something he thought that locals would enjoy, but would also “tie in nicely with our community.” “I think it’s going to be beautiful during all seasons, whether covered in snow or on a rainy day.”
McKenzie Sumner said that although he does not consider himself a professional artist, he thought this would be great opportunity to participate in Mount Airy’s first Fiddle Crawl. Sumner said he had been to places with public art initiatives: “I really thought it was a cool concept, so I threw my design in the mix and I was excited to find out I was chosen and am now looking forward to starting the process.”
Sumner said he initially designed a North Carolina theme, which attracted the attention of Old North State Winery, and while discussing his design with Ellie Webb, they worked together to modify the fiddle art to include “more of a wine theme.”
After the public art display, fiddles will be auctioned off to the highest bidder, to support funding for downtown economic development.
A total of 23 artist designs were submitted to the Mount Airy Downtown group and evaluated by the promotions committee, then potential sponsors chose the artist they wanted to work with, narrowing the group of artists down to 12.
Artists from across the region sent in two-dimensional designs to represent their vision for the large, three-dimensional fiberglass fiddle sculptures, which will arrive in early February, primed and ready to paint.
Artists will work on their creations until the due date of April 7, Main Street Coordinator Lizzie Morrison explained, and the Fiddle Crawl sculpture reveal will take place on May 2 at the Historic Earle Theatre. The fiddles will be placed downtown by the time Budbreak Wine Festival begins on May 3. Morrison said plans were in the works to have an art show for the Fiddle Crawl artists during the festival. Plaques on the base of each fiddle will recognize the sponsor and the artist.
Fiddle Crawl artists selected include:
• Kayla Ellis, sponsored by F. Rees Clothing Company (permanent fiddle)
• Lizzie Morrison, sponsored by Main-Oak Emporium
• Vivian Elstone, co-sponsored by BB&T and Blue Ridge Burke Insurance
• Keenia Beck, sponsored by Moody’s Funeral Services
• Kathy Pruett, sponsored by Carolina Environmental Contractors, Inc. (fiddle to be placed in yard of home beside Wells Fargo)
• Eric Leathers, co-sponsored by Surrey Bank & Trust and Perkins & Associates Financial
• Philip Ernst, co-sponsored by the North 400 Block and Workforce Carolina (fiddle to be placed on North 400 block)
• Maria Skaskiw, sponsored by Patterson (fiddle to be placed by Scarlet Begonias)
• Andrea Morrison, sponsored by Mount Airy Rotary Club (location to be determined)
• McKenzie Sumner, sponsored by Old North State Winery (permanent fiddle)
• Greg McCormick, sponsored by Andrew Pearson Industries and Interlam (for display at Earle Theatre)
• Mike Lowe, sponsored by McArthur’s on Main (new business to open downtown in March)
All fiddle sculptures, except those with permanent sponsors, will be auctioned off on Oct. 24, during the Fiddle Crawl Auction Event at Old North State Winery.
“We had a really wide variety of designs submitted by our artists,” said Lizzie Morrison. “The designs ranged in style from the abstract, flowers, local cultural references including Mayberry, dogwoods and granite, Old Time music and family. I think the designs already chosen are wonderful…we were so impressed at the effort of our artists. They obviously put in so much effort and works for hours on the designs.”
Benefits of Fiddle Crawl include enhancing downtown appearance, promoting arts and local businesses, creating an additional tourist attraction, encouraging foot-traffic, and a public art initiative that will connect the entire downtown area.
Reach Jessica Johnson at email@example.com or 719-1933.