Proposal would expand public art throughout Rock Hill

dworthington@heraldonline.comOctober 26, 2013 

A bike rack designed by Winthrop University students sits in front of Rock Hill’s City Hall. A proposal before the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. would formalize the selection and placement of community art.

DON WORTHINGTON — dworthington@heraldonline.com

The informal process of adding art to community spaces in Rock Hill may soon become formalized.

Barre Mitchell, president of the Arts Council of York County, proposed creating a Rock Hill Designs Committee under the auspices of the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp. to oversee the selection and placement process. The proposed committee would serve as a way to raise funds for the art projects.

The proposed panel would include representatives from the city, Rock Hill schools, Winthrop University, Clinton College, York Technical College, the Arts Council of York County, the Economic Development Corp.’s Quality of Life Committee and others.

Before Mitchell presented the idea at Friday’s economic development annual planning retreat, Mayor Doug Echols enthusiastically endorsed the proposal.

“As a community, we should think about ... learning and living. We should not let this moment pass,” he said. “We are not talking about a lot of money; we are talking about the way we think about ourselves.”

Echols said he wants the city to be known for its community art. The phrase “community art,” he said, shows that residents are part of the process. “Public art” gives the image of a government project, he said.

With several community art projects already on display, Echols said, “Rock Hill should be known as an art city.” He said Rock Hill should have an art trail, which could be supported and promoted through the hospitality tax.

The art discussion was prompted by an update on development of Fountain Park in downtown Rock Hill. The City Council recently approved a $4.8 million construction contract for the East Main Street park, bounded by Saluda and Black streets and Elizabeth Lane. A $1.2 million grant from the Foundation of the Carolinas is helping to pay for the park’s planned signature feature, a water fountain. The fountain costs are separate from construction costs.

The park will include art inspired by Rock Hill students. The school district held a contest for students called “Kids Integrated Design Showcase.” Students researched how the mills affected Rock Hill’s development and designed their artwork using related themes such as cotton and technology.

Lesslie Elementary students Tommy Bouler and Stephen St. Clair proposed a bike rack based on mill machinery. Students in James Matthews’ classes in Independence Elementary School drew technology pictures. Their artwork was selected by a committee of judges, including Winthrop art professor Tom Stanley.

Stanley explained Friday how their art is being adapted for use in the park. The design by the Lesslie Elementary students has been slightly modified to make it safer and easier to make. Pictures from Matthews’ class have been cropped to focus on key elements. The technology pictures likely will become decorative pavers at the park.

Mitchell then proposed a plan to fund two or three community art projects over the next three years. The projects would engage students and teachers and give them practical experience. The project would be open to Rock Hill students and local college students.

Mitchell said the expected per-project cost would be between $5,000 and $10,000. The cost of creating the art could be included in the budgets for public projects such as Fountain Park. Mitchell said he expected the costs would be negligible when compared to the total project’s budget.

Funding could come from public and private sources, he said. As proposed, the Rock Hill Designs Committee would be asked to develop project-specific budgets and review requests.

Mitchell said the proposal will be considered by Economic Development Corp. at its Dec. 3 meeting. If approved, commitments from other partners would be sought. If everything goes as planned, Mitchell said, the committee could be up and running by February.

While the proposal listed several public places the community art could be located, Mitchell said he hopes private businesses would want to participate in the process.

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

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