City Councilman Steve Schewel was a little hesitant about endorsing a baseball-themed public art project near the Durham Bulls Athletic Park when the subject came up at Thursday’s council work session.
“This seems like it’s going to be an advertisement for the Bulls,” Schewel said. “They’re important to us ... but I don’t think that’s a particularly great role for public art.”
The project before the council was a mural that officials of the American Tobacco campus want painted on the now-blank concrete retaining wall on Willard Street, at the campus’s south end.
The wall is in the Durham Freeway right of way and, under state Department of Transportation rules, American Tobacco needs the city to approve the project and serve a responsible agency, according to Peter Coyle of the city’s economic development office.
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Coyle assured Schewel and his colleagues that, if they agree to go along, they and the Durham public will have their say on how the mural looks.
The city’s cultural affairs board and its public-art committee have already endorsed the idea, he said, with the stipulation that there is opportunity for citizens to weigh in and the final design will have to meet the City Council’s favor.
According to a city memo ( nando.com/mrl), the mural would incorporate “symbols and colors related to baseball and the Durham Bulls baseball team.” Blackwell Street Management plans to commission Raleigh artist James Marshall ( nando.com/dalek) to be in charge of the project.
“And you’re comfortable it will be good public art?” Schewel asked.
“From seeing other works by that artist, I think it will be an interesting abstract design,” Coyle said. He added that, whatever form the mural takes, it probably will change.
“American Tobacco, knowing that there’s some deterioration on these kind of walls over time, has already talked in terms of seeing this as a canvas over which ... the art could change over time,” he said.
“If public doesn’t like it, maybe a few years down the road we can change it,” Coyle said.
“Thank you,” Schewel said.
No other council member chose to comment. Formal endorsement for the mural idea will be on the agenda for the council’s regular meeting Feb. 2.
American Tobacco hopes to have the mural done by the Bulls’ first 2015 home game, April 15 versus Norfolk.