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Second pier mural project planned

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A second round of murals could be going up on Interstate 64 piers this summer, thanks to an anonymous benefactor.

"Artists are asking if we're doing it again. FestivALL is asking if we're doing it again," city planner Lori Brannon told members of Charleston's Strong Neighborhood's Task Force last week.

A year ago, task force members adopted Brannon's proposal to recruit 10 artists to paint historical images on the columns that support the elevated interstate along Pennsylvania Avenue at Washington Street. FestivALL board members agreed to provide nearly half the $23,000 budget for what they dubbed the Peer to Pier mural project, as one of the public art events in the annual summer celebration.

But a second round seemed doubtful, Brannon said. "At a minimum, we're $13,000 short."

The Sustainable Kanawha Valley Initiative ($10,000) and West Side Main Street ($3,000) could not offer the grants they did last year, she said. "And if we do the Boulevard, not only are we short the $13,000, there are a lot more piers. I think there are eight on each side."

Actually, there are 10 on the north side of the Boulevard alone -- two under each ramp and six under the central section of the Interstate.

At that point, task force chairwoman Mary Jean Davis (also a city councilwoman) had an idea. She grabbed her cellphone and left the room. She returned a few minutes later and said, "I have a commitment."

A person she would describe only as someone interested in the riverfront had agreed to donate up to $13,000 for a second round of murals, Davis said.

To keep costs down, task force members agreed to limit the project to the 10 piers on the north side of the Boulevard.

One advantage of that location is the Boulevard will be closed during FestivALL, so artists won't have to worry about traffic whizzing by while they work, at least during the two-week event, organizers said.

FestivALL Director Larry Groce said he was glad to hear the project is continuing, and would provide another $10,000 this year.

"We'll commit to it," he said. "We have to apply for money from the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation. We'd like to thank them for last year. But we want to pledge to them anyway because it's such a great thing for the city.

"It's been a very positive thing from all the feedback I get from people and from the artistic community. We're enthusiastic to join in."

The next step is to check for other funding sources and get approval from the state Division of Highways, Brannon said. "We'll solicit artists in March."

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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