“Public art helps create community identity and adds to our quality of life,” says Kitty Love, executive director of Arts2People, the nonprofit that launched the Asheville Mural Project. Those who have seen the mural that graces the I-240 support-piers crossing over Lexington Avenue know what Love is talking about: The Asheville Mural Project has transformed once bleak-columns-of-concrete into a cascading collage of color inspired by the life and culture of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Lexington Avenue mural project energizes and animates the space, creating a vibrant gateway to the heart of the city.
This Saturday, June 19, Arts2People invites the community to an unveiling of the final “Chess Players” portion of the mural, destined for the Broadway/Merrimon side of the I-240 bridge. The Chess Players piece, designed by Molly Must, is a stunning 40-by-80-foot painting of two men sitting across from each other with an arching chess set between them. Saturday’s event is also a benefit for the project.
“If you’ve ever thought about donating to the project [this is the perfect opportunity] since you get a party in the bargain,” Love says. “And, donations go a long way.” In addition to viewing the mural, guests will enjoy catered delights prepared by Mela Indian Restaurant and locally-crafted beer from Lexington Avenue Brewery.
The evening will feature entertainment by members of Seduction Sideshow, a local burlesque/vaudeville and circus-sideshow performance troupe, live music by the “bluegrasstafari” band The Pond Brothers, and a raffle ticket for a piece of furniture from Terra Nostra Décor. Guests will also have the opportunity to meet with local artists who contributed to the project.
Unlike the Lexington Avenue mural, where painters and artists perched themselves on scaffolding to reach their concrete canvas, the Chess Players piece was made using a techniques called marouflage, painting on porous cloth that can “stick to anything except steel,” reports artist Ian Wilkinson, who has been working with Must on the mural for over four weeks. The 3,000-year-old technique was used by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and John Singer Sargent, though, thankfully, the materials have been modernized since then (da Vinci and Sargent painted on canvas and used goat or rabbit-skin glue as an adhesive).
Using this technique, also known as parachute cloth hanging, enables muralist to work inside (protected from rain, wind and winter’s chill); they can roll the cloth pieces up and transport them easily; and the method cuts out the expense of paying for scaffolding equipment.
The preview party will be held at the mural’s current staging grounds: the Grace Studios on 19 Carolina Lane. The mural itself is wrapped around the studio, covering almost every surface of space.
The two enormous characters/chess players depicted in the mural look familiar for a reason: “These are real portraits,” says Wilkinson, who specializes in realist painting. “This is Charles,” says Wilkinson pointing to the man on the right wearing a white-and-red jacket, “and that’s George: They play chess at Pritchard Park almost every day.” The mural’s design fits with the project’s overall mission: To put a magnifying glass on the community and create illustrations and designs that bring out elements of Asheville’s culture.
Tickets to the sneak-peek unveiling cost $25 and all proceeds support the completion of the mural that will beautify our city and benefit the entire community for years to come. The event begins at 7 and continues till 10 p.m., at 19 Carolina Lane in downtown Asheville.
Photos by Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt