If you look at the mural proposed for the intersection of Jones Ferry Road and N.C. 54 and think “my kid could have drawn that,” artist Michael Brown will be very happy.
The new mural departs from many of Brown’s better-known works in Orange County and North Carolina. There are no giant pencils, big green sea turtles, or battle scenes from wars long ago.
Brown’s work is renowned for its collages representing collisions of history anchored to one physical location such as the Orange County courthouse and the many signature civil right events that passed through that space, the Greensboro public library and its community impact or the sheer nostalgia of the historic Wilson train station.
The Carrboro work is based on the self-portraits of about 160 third graders from Carrboro Elementary School and is intended to celebrate the community’s diversity. Brown, along with project leader Michael Adamson, presented the final concept image to the Board of Aldermen Tuesday night for its approval.
Alderwoman Jacquie Gist gave glowing approval.
“Pretty much every kid who looks at this can see themselves in it,” she said. The work features boys and girls of different sizes, shapes and colors.
To that end, Adamson pointed out that while the work is based on self-portraits, no individual child will be able to say “that’s me” in a literal sense. This was important for the children’s privacy.
They also took driver safety into consideration. The mural is static because “anything that suggests motion is distracting to drivers and would not be approved,” he said.
Alderwoman Bethany Chaney asked about lighting the mural with solar-powered lights, but Adamson said doing so might bring too much attention to it, posing a safety risk. Brown said he thought the nearby street lighting would make the mural viewable at night, but not distracting.
The Carrboro Arts Committee reviewed and approved the mural’s final rendition in May. With the aldermen’s approval, the project’s application will now go to the NCDOT Right-of-Way committee for final review.
In other business
Also Tuesday, the aldermen introduced two new hires to the community. First up was new Fire Chief Susanna Schmitt Williams, who started last month. Originally from Philadelphia, Williams came to the area after graduating from Temple University.
Williams said she began her career in teaching in Alamance County. then made the change to the fire service, working her way up. She previously worked for the Chapel Hill Fire Department.
Next was James “JD” Freeman, the town’s new director of Public Works. Originally from Lumberton, N.C., Freeman studied civil engineering at the Air Force Academy, served in Iraq and Germany, then earned his MBA at UNC’s Kenan Flagler Business School.