Walking from midtown (the nickname I've tried and failed to give the land between Merrimon and Broadway, but it never catches) to downtown has gotten a lot different over the years. Used to be, you'd walk past punk/art houses and under the blandy I-240 overpass into what was really just prime hobo territory. Now you've got the Pioneer Building and this bright, sparkly mural gracing the concrete of those freeway pillars.
That mural is growing larger and bolder even as I type. Three deft painters are working to finish the Lexington side — watch for them up on the scaffolding, bikes parked beneath. And now the Asheville Mural Project has been awarded a $5,000 grant from the small, family Chaddick Foundation. Organizers hope to raise another $5,000 to match that grant and finish both Merrimon Avenue sides.
“It's incredible, so awesome, we're so grateful,” says Molly Must, AMP's director, of the grant money. AMP is a giant community project that couldn't exist without the talent and labor of many artists, and the money from dozens of sponsors. It took years to navigate the red-tape involved in painting a mural on N.C. DOT property, but now even the DOT is singing praise for the project.
“Asheville is a beautiful place, and this effort helps us celebrate that beauty, writes operations engineer Ken Wilson, who says he hopes the mural inspires graffiti artists (once frequenters of the same area) to use their talent and energy in creative, constructive ways. A few updates:
• If you've walked or driven past the project during a summer storm, you may have seen the water pouring off the overpass. A break in the roadway meant water was dousing the mural. AMP has found someone to build flashing and caulk the whole thing to where that should be solved.
• After Must took a trip to learn about Philadelphia's massive, $6 million-per-year mural program, she brought back some tricks for AMP. The Merrimon sides of the project will be created with a new, less-expensive and more collaborative technique that may actually be more durable, too. It involves painting squares of parachute cloth and gluing (OK, it's really strong glue) to the side of the piers.
• The Merrimon murals have more decidedly Asheville themes. One side will be devoted to our local agricultural community, and will focus on the farm-to-market movement and local farmers markets. The other will showcase the chess players in Pritchard Park, including Charles O'Kelley, who plays the outdoors boards every day the sun shines (he shows up playing chess in the movie Searching for Bobby Fisher).
• Soon enough, Harper Leich, Kurt Thaesler and Steve Lister will have finished the Lexington side, and the dialogue between the two murals will begin. Check out the drum circle theme that builds between them.
• Along with the city of Asheville and the Chaddick Foundation, sponsors include the Asheville Downtown Association, Greenlife Grocery, Downtown Asheville Residents Association, Julie Vann, EcoBuilders, Ted Warner, the Lexington Avenue Bizarre Bazaar, Public Interest Projects/The Orange Peel, Rosetta's Kitchen, Ken Sehested, Jason Rector, Whitt Rylee, On a Roll Screen Printing, Bionic Man Painting, Izzy's, Henco Graphics, Shanda Christian, Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company, Malaprop's, Asheville Arts Council, Sherwin Williams, Stephen Jones and Joan Goodman.
Sponsors could also include you. If you'd like to get involved, donate money or equipment (AMP is currently setting up an office in Riverview Station and needs a computer, scanner and digital projector), check out www.ashevillemuralproject.org or e-mail Must at firstname.lastname@example.org.