A new public-private partnership will bring together business owners, town officials and civic organizations, and the Arts Council of Moore County to develop a series of murals on selected buildings in Southern Pines. The goal is to engage visitors and locals alike while encouraging economic growth in these targeted areas.
Earlier this summer, a request for a mural at Harbour Place shopping plaza in downtown Southern Pines prompted concerns about the subjective nature of public art. The town’s existing sign ordinance also does not contain appropriate language to guide appropriate design decisions.
Despite an initially tepid response, town leaders were more enthusiastic when a more detailed plan and collaborative approach to design elements was presented during Monday’s work session.
Planning Director BJ Grieve and Chris Dunn, executive director of the Arts Council, said a public art mural project could increase foot traffic in key places.
“We all care about Southern Pines or we wouldn’t be here. People care about places that are active, interesting and unique. That pretty much sums up Southern Pines,” Dunn said. “The town can determine where to allow mural locations, so we can grow the town in areas where we want to grow. We can also incorporate our culture.”
Mayor Carol Haney said she was particularly pleased to see a variety of proposed locations, including buildings in downtown Southern Pines as well as West Southern Pines.
“I think these murals will add to the charm and attractiveness of Southern Pines,” Haney said.
As outlined in discussion, the project would involve four to six selected locations for proposed murals with permission and input from the business owner and involvement from the Appearance Commission and West Southern Pines Civic Club. The town is also seeking participation from the Southern Pines Business Association and the North Carolina Arts Council.
Each mural would also require an exemption hearing for a public art project.
Funding for the murals would be a group effort as well. As proposed, the town would provide up to $2,500 in seed money for each mural, the business owner would pay some costs, plus additional funds would come from private donors, organizations and/or grants.
Councilman Mike Saulnier said he liked the idea of murals but wanted some assurance that the long term maintenance and upkeep would fall to the property owner, not the town.
“We need to be cautious about funding-creep,” he said.
Planning Director BJ Grieve said the mural project was a process with multiple approval steps and buy-in from stakeholders before a final design will be approved.
Dunn said a painted mural would have at least a 10-year lifespan before it needed any restoration work. He noted the trompe l’oeil mural above the Sunrise Theater is an excellent example of how a mural can add visual interest to a building; however it does need some restoration work.
Steve Harbour of Harbour Place thanked Grieve and Dunn for their help. The first public art mural will likely be painted on the two-story brick building his family owns, where Scott’s Table restaurant is located at the southern end of downtown.
“Our intention for a mural was never that this is about us or for us. Our intention was to create something the town would appreciate,” Harbour said. “As a business owner, I like the idea of helping to guide the walkability of Southern Pines Pines with areas that could use a little more attention.”
“I think there a lot of ideas that could come out of this for the town and for its people.”