Mural takes shape on Lexington Avenue

At long last, a mighty mural project at the end of North Lexington Avenue has begun to take shape.

Taking shape: Local artists are painting a mural beneath the I-240 bridge over North Lexington Avenue. Photo By Jonathan Welch

The outlines of the mural have already been drawn on the concrete supports of the Interstate 240 bridge spanning Lexington Avenue, and artists have begun adding color to the form. For 21-year-old Molly Must, the painting marks the realization of an idea she first had some three years ago. “It’s nice to get it off the ground,” Must said last week as she prepared to scale a scaffold and put acrylic paint to pillar.

In 2005, Must dreamed of taking a dark overpass and turning it into a more vibrant place for passersby to enjoy. “I think public art should bring people together, or create an experience in some way by bringing people together,” the UNCA student said.

Must pursued her vision. She helped create the Asheville Mural Project under the umbrella of the nonprofit Arts 2 People, and started planning. She worked with other local artists and residents to come up with a design, and she started landing grant money. Key donors include the city of Asheville, which gave $6,000 in taxpayers’ money; Greenlife Grocery, which contributed $1,000; and The EcoBuilders, which offered $500. Sherwin-Williams provided paint and primer.

Painting the dream: Molly Must, whose vision for a mural beneath the bridge led to the creation of the Asheville Mural Project. Photo By Jason Sandford

Despite the outpouring of energy and interest, the visionary still had to tangle with bureaucratic red tape. “I had no idea how much bureaucratic muck we would have to trudge through,” Must said.

But trudge she did, and the mural has started coming to life. Working with fellow artists Josh Spiceland and Dan Beck, Must hopes to have the center section of the mural complete in about three weeks. The design depicts a timeline of sustainability, she said, highlighting the mural forms—a Cherokee woman and child, a colonial woman spinning thread, a bicycler, an architect and a man watering a garden.

The section of bridge supports on the west side of the overpass will pay tribute to Asheville’s arts culture, Must explained. Artists Kurt Theasler and Steve Lister have been creating that design, and work will begin once the center section is complete. Must hopes to have the east-end side of bridge supports painted as well, but those plans aren’t firmed up.

The center and west sections of the overpass will also have portraits of Asheville “saints” painted inside the columns, Must said, and people can nominate anyone for the portraits by going to www.ashevillemuralproject.org and clicking on the “nominate your Asheville Saint” button.

Sizing up the mural, Must exuded the enthusiasm that’s seen her through the planning process.

“What I love about this project is that it’s so collaborative, and it’s reflecting experiences that we have had in Asheville,” she said. “A lot of public art doesn’t say anything, but this is full of ideas and sentiment.”

The Asheville Mural Project invites volunteers to work on mosaics that will be part of the mural. The mosaic work will be held Saturday, June 21, during the Asheville Building Convergence.

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