The true colors of a community can best be seen through the lens of its art. From murals to sculptures to giant mosaics, art speaks to the soul and communicates where words fall short. Outdoor art installations are cropping up all over Lynchburg to enhance its already picturesque and historic landscape. These outdoor art projects belong to everyone—creating a blossoming, dynamic cultural scene for all to enjoy. Here are some of the latest works of outdoor art around town.
Storm Drain Mural Project
The City of Lynchburg, in partnership with the James River Association and Skeo Solutions, launched its first-ever Storm Drain Mural Project in early 2017. A large storm drain located at the Fairview Heights Recreation Center on Campbell Avenue has been transformed into an inspiring, informative outdoor art installation. Artists were invited to submit storm drain designs to a panel of judges, then the public had an opportunity to vote for the top five finalists. Benjamin Brown’s design won, so he was commissioned to complete the project, assisted by Christina Ball.
Brown’s inspiration for the mural came from the James River. “Our theme was ‘It All Drains to the James’ and we had an actual storm drain on the mural site to incorporate into the art,” said Brown.
“We wanted to present a scene that looked like Lynchburg. Elements including the cityscape, wildlife, the storm drain, and—of course—the river were all intertwined to show that these seemingly distant real-life aspects of Lynchburg are in fact very much connected.”
Brown’s favorite thing about creating the mural was certainly the art itself, but also the interaction with the community throughout the process. “During our painting sessions, people would walk up and comment on the art, which opened the door for us to explain the theme and educate the community on why this was important.”
Brown was assisted in the mural project by Christina Ball, a self-taught Lynchburg native whose public art projects include the gymnasium mural at Leesville Elementary School, a veteran’s mural in Manassas, and volunteering for the Amazement Square mosaic wall in downtown Lynchburg.
“Lynchburg is home,” said Ball. “I’m inspired by the natural beauty that surrounds the James River and the importance of maintaining that beauty for years to come.”
As a painter, Ball appreciates the rhythm created by the flow and circular pattern of the river throughout the piece, including a vibrant blue that ties the mural together.
“My favorite thing about doing a project like this is that it’s fun and it’s great to work and collaborate with other artists,” said Ball. “Art is a way of giving voice to an important message.”
Brown and Ball completed the storm drain mural over the course of a month, clocking over 150 cumulative hours.
“I enjoy applying my art to as many situations as I can that inspire or educate others,” Brown commented. “Art is a soothing activity that I’m passionate about, and it was such a pleasure creating this mural.”
The Craft Crucible Building
Randy Smith is the owner of The Craft Crucible, a workspace and lumber shop, on Thurman Avenue in midtown Lynchburg. In late 2016, he approached Kimberly Gibson-McDonald, a cultural arts teacher at E.C. Glass High School, to ask if the art students could create some street art for his building. Knowing that an outdoor art project like this would enhance the midtown area, Gibson-McDonald eagerly accepted the challenge.
“I wanted an artistic style that would enable everyone to find success,” Gibson-McDonald recalled of her inspiration for the project. “Since I knew I’d be doing this project with introductory art classes, I immediately thought of the artist Keith Haring, his simplified graffiti figures, and his passion for creating community artwork with a message.”
The project, which took six weeks to complete, includes two 8×20-foot murals on the side of the building. “After we learned a little art history about Keith Haring, his artwork, and his motivation for creating large graffiti murals, students created their own murals using simplified Keith Haring figures,” said Gibson-McDonald. “These figures were in motion and had to visually express a theme of community.ˮ
The white spaces around the figures are filled with movement lines, doodles, and words that students created when prompted with the question, “What words would express how you feel about ‘Lynchburg’ or your ideal community?”
Gibson-McDonald’s favorite part of the project was watching the students work together to make one communal piece of art and displaying it in a public setting. “They do amazing artwork on a daily basis,” she said. “I display it in our hallways at E.C. Glass and the hallways at the school administration building regularly, but the general public misses out on the artistic talents of the kids in their community. Randy gave us a special opportunity to help bring art and beauty to midtown Lynchburg, and my students take pride in knowing that their artwork will be up for the community to see.”
“I truly believe that the display of art in the community brings us together,” said Gibson-McDonald. “The artist whose work is on
display is giving something to the viewer and that person takes that something, whatever it may be—a feeling, a memory, an idea—and
shares it with someone else. This begins a domino effect of communication, all starting with a piece of artwork.”
Craddock Terry Shoe
Homegrown artist Paul Clements is experienced with outdoor art installations around Lynchburg. His work includes the LOVE sculpture at Percival’s Island, the city skyline cutouts on the steps from Commerce to Jefferson Street, and his latest artwork—a giant shoe in front of the Craddock Terry Hotel.
“I realized that people really like photo opportunities and I thought that a giant shoe that could comfortably seat four people would be just that,” Clements recalled about his inspiration for the piece. “Being in front of the Craddock Terry Hotel, it just had to be a shoe.”
Clements enjoys the entire process of creating outdoor art, from concept to completion. “I enjoy when all of the planning is done and the project gains momentum. It’s like a book that I really get into and it engulfs me.”
The Craddock Terry shoe took six months to complete, from sketches to its installation in late 2016. “I came up with the idea, pitched it to the hotel, and when they agreed to it, I had to deal with the fact that I had absolutely no idea how to make it happen,” chuckled Clements. “I had never tried to recreate an existing object before. I was copying a 6-inch heel and it needed to be 8 feet tall, so I had to multiply everything by 16. It was like unlocking a new dimension for me.”
Conceptualizing and designing outdoor art is a process that Clements takes seriously. He is attentive to detail in considering space, aesthetic, lighting, structure and safety concerns. “I like to visit the site at various times of the day and night to see what happens there and I simply observe,” said Clements. “I ‘listen’ to the space and imagine multiple possibilities. Once the client and I settle on something, I spend a lot of time with structural and safety concerns before I begin. To make something appear to be simple is never simple.”
That apparent simplicity is the real beauty behind Clements’ work. He creates outdoor art that is thoughtful, detailed and rooted in community. “Every town has the same sort of buildings and stores, but not every community has a giant shoe, for example,” he noted.
“I enjoy seeing outdoor art change with the seasons, from being draped in snow to being surrounded by spring flowers. Public art belongs to everyone, and it’s a fun, surprising, inspiring addition to the landscape.”