A frog playing the fiddle, a colorful cube, rectangles seemingly in motion, these sculptures and others have adorned Clayton parks and prominent buildings for the past year.
This month, a new roster of pieces will refresh downtown for the fourth annual sculpture trail, the public arts project that turns downtown streets into an outdoor gallery.
While a canvas’ colors might run in the rain, sculptures, at least the ones chosen for Clayton’s trail, can withstand four seasons of Eastern North Carolina weather. As part of the effort to brand Clayton an arts town, outdoor concerts take a couple of hours, Clayton Center events cost a few dollars, but the sculptures ask for just a moment.
This year’s trail will add a sculpture in the roundabout at Spring Branch Medical Park, bringing the total number of sculptures to an even 10. Notable works include Jordan Parah’s “Harmonious Balance,” which resembles a sketch drawing of a body, but made of metal and standing more than six feet high. It will stand in the middle of Horne Square. Hanna Jubran’s “In Motion #3” is an abstract figure done up in red and blue and towering 12 feet in the air; it will be outside the Clayton Community Center. Outside Hocutt-Ellington Memorial library, Jordan Parah’s silver “Fly Me to the Moon” will take up residency. Public Arts Advisory Board chairman Jason Hardy said this one should be an eye catcher.
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“We typically try to pick something whimsical and fun outside the library,” Hardy said. “To me it looks like a kid twirling a sparkler at night. It’s really neat; when the streetlights hit it at night, I think it will really glow.”
Many of the works will loom large around town, with most over six feet tall and nearly all of them weighing at least 200 pounds, with some as much as 450. Hardy said that’s no coincidence, as the selection committee gravitated toward large, vibrantly colored pieces. The sculpture trail selection committee combed through 30 submissions to chose the 10. Artists receive $1,000 for lending their works to the town for the year.
“This project always brings a lot of beauty and conversation to downtown Clayton, which I think is kind of fun,” Hardy said.
Town Manager Steve Biggs said the effort to embrace the arts in Clayton began more than a decade ago. Town staff saw the move as curious at best, he said.
“Just so people understand the historical perspective, I remember a retreat 12 years ago when the mayor and council, to our surprise, said, ‘We’re going to be an arts community,’ ” Biggs said. “We had been working on being the community that wasn’t financially in the hole, so when they sprung that on us, we thought, ‘Well, that’s interesting; I wonder how that’s going to work out for us.’ Now, a decade later, we’re really recognized for this.”
Councilman Jason Thompson recounted a conversation with a new resident in which he made a pitch for the arts as among the best things Clayton does.
“What sets us aside from everyone else, Clayton Visual Arts and our projects, this clearly sets us apart from other towns,” Thompson said.
Biggs gave the credit for Clayton’s burgeoning arts scene to groups outside Town Hall.
“This has not been driven by staff; we’re just the enablers,” Biggs said. “The reason we’ve done well is groups like Clayton Visual Arts and the Public Arts Advisory Board. The drivers of this thing have been the citizens, and that’s why it’s been successful.”
Drew Jackson: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104; @jdrewjackson