The Board of Aldermen have approved using a wall on Fire Station No.1 for a honeybee mural to be created by painter Matthew Willey from New York City.
Willey, a muralist for more than 20 years, is the founder of a project called “The Good of the Hive” that seeks to engage the public in the plight of honey bees and the need for their hives and colonies to be healthy and thriving.
He writes: “The Good of the Hive Initiative begins with the struggle of the honeybees, but it also views the hive as a metaphor for communities of people. Honeybees within the hive ‘think’ collectively; their immune system is collective: the health of the individual is based on the health of the collective.”
Willey’s plan is to paint 50,000 honeybees (the size of a healthy hive) on several murals over the next several years, in conjunction with local schools and other organizations.
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Bees act collectively throughout their lives, Willey said.
“They engage in what is called altruistic suicide,” he said. “A sick or dying bee won’t return to the hive – for the good of the hive.”
Willey wants people and communities to understand that their actions are similarly connected in how human activities in one location can affect the quality of life in another. Though he plans to reach out to cities all over the world, Carrboro is among the first to become involved, partly because it is one of America’s 15 “Bee Cities,” having certified its commitment to sustaining pollinator gardens and the larger environment.
The number of bees appearing in each mural will be counted, said Willey, toward a project total of 50,000. Carrboro’s may be honeybees 100 through 250, for example. Willey plans to compile photos and stories about each mural project and publish them in a coffee table book, he said.
Plans are underway, said Willey, for a similar project in Durham on the Bull City Cool Food Hub building.
The Carrboro mural will be planned for the side of the fire station facing the Town Commons on West Main Street. Work on the mural could begin as early as this spring. Although the project is expected to cost an estimated $15,000, Willey said he plans to raise the money through crowd funding and local donations and will not request funding from the aldermen.
The aldermen buzzed with enthusiasm for the project.
“Bees are modeling how we should be,” said Alderman Sammy Slade, citing the cooperation and collaboration that keeps hives healthy.
Alderwoman Jacquie Gist encouraged Willey to contact organizers of Hope Gardens to enlist low-income residents and homeless people to volunteer to help the project. “These populations are often forgotten for supporting work like this,” she said.
The town’s advisory boards will weigh in on appearance and the project’s design.
Alderman Damon Seils told his colleagues via email that he supported the mural proposal. He could not attend the meeting and will miss a few more, said Alderwoman Randee Haven-O’Donnell, while he recovers from injuries he sustained in a recent bike mishap.