Carrboro firefighters gave artist Michael Brown a clean canvas last week.
With the N.C. DOT Right-of-Way Art Committee’s go-ahead, firefighters Kassandra Kreplak and Chris Covington used 500 to 600 gallons of water from pumper truck 931 to hose down the retaining wall along the N.C. 54 West off-ramp at Jones Ferry Road.
The mural will celebrate Carrboro’s children and diversity, said project manager Michael Adamson.
Brown, a Chapel Hill artist, is well known in the community for his murals of a giant pencil, sea turtles and other subjects. The new mural will be a departure in design, based on self-portraits from 160 Carrboro Elementary School third-graders. The final seven faces, drawn in a child’s drawing style, are Brown’s creations.
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“Third graders are right on the cusp of major psychlogical and cognizant change,” said Brown, who used to assign self-portraits when he taught art in elementary school. “Their self-images re evolving.’
Plus, he added, “There’s not a person that drops by that doesn’t have a few of these on their refrigerator.”
The Board of Aldermen approved the project – roughly 9 feet at its highest point and 75 feet wide – in September. It’s the first phase of a three-phase project at that corner. The second mural could begin near the bottom of the off-ramp and wrap around the corner to Jones Ferry Road, while the third mural could cover the Jones Ferry Road wall in front of Collins Crossing Apartments.
Adamson said the third phase could include up to 30 individual panels and more detailed artwork involving the community. The public also might be able to get involved with the second phase, he said, since there is a grassy area in front of that location.
Adamson didn’t offer details about the second mural. Both works are still being designed, he said, and could change before getting final approval from the aldermen and the town’s Arts Committee. The project is being funded with an $8,000 grant from the Carrboro Tourism Development Authority.
Painting began last week. This first phase could take about 10 days, Brown said, depending on the weather.
NCDOT’s review of the project included concerns that the mural might distract drivers, particularly while it is being painted. Adamson said the mural itself is a simple design that should be visible to motorists driving by at 45 mph. The view at that speed lasts about three seconds, he said.
Alderwoman Randee Haven-O’Donnell appreciated the NCDOT review.
“The Department of Transportation was particularly helpful and supportive of the project,” she said. “It’s a fantastic idea that’s truly Carrboro-esque!”
There are no plans to close the intersection for the project, said Public Works Director JD Freeman. Orange barrels and signs have been set up along the off-ramp.
Fire Chief Susanna Williams said she expects the first phase of the project to slow down traffic and encouraged drivers to exercise caution in the area.
“Any time someone is driving, we encourage them to focus on that task,” she said. “Taking your eyes off the road for even a few seconds can result in a motor vehicle collision. So certainly for this project, we would encourage the same of those driving past the location: pay attention, don’t text and drive, obey all traffic laws.”
That said, she’s looking forward to the finished product.
“Public Works personnel did a great job of power washing the wall as preparation for the mural,” Williams said. “Carrboro Fire-Rescue is excited to be a part of this project by giving the wall a final wash down for the artist before he begins (July 13). We are looking forward to seeing the mural when it is finished.”
Staff writers Tammy Grubb and Mark Schultz contributed to this story.