CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In what has become an annual affair, a dozen artists will take to the street next month, dodging fast-moving motorists and pigeon droppings, to turn bland interstate columns into works of art.
A group of jurors on Friday picked the final two winning entries for the third Peer to Pier mural program. The chosen few, who include three-time participants Jeff Pierson, Ian Bode and Charly Hamilton, have a two-month window -- June 1 to July 31 -- to complete their projects.
This year the artists will paint the piers along Virginia Street -- six on each side -- as it passes beneath Interstate 64 near the Elk River.
In honor of the state's 150th birthday this year, the theme for this round of murals is West Virginia's sesquicentennial. Designs had to reflect that theme in some way.
The 17 artists who submitted designs found a wide range of ways to meet the criteria.
Pierson, known for his caricatures (he painted the mural on a wall of the One Stop near the Capitol), depicted founding fathers like Francis Pierpont and Arthur Boreman with more than a bit of artistic license.
Both Hamilton and Bode will paint the Battle of Charleston -- blue-coated boys in the Elk City area on the left, fighting with their gray-jacketed brothers across the Elk River on the future site of the Civic Center -- but you'll have no trouble telling the two apart.
For his mural, Dustin Durham fast-forwarded a century to pull a quote from John F. Kennedy's speech celebrating the state's 100th birthday: "The sun does not always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do."
Organizers with the city's Strong Neighborhoods Task Force will consult with the Historic Landmarks Commission, said Lori Brannon of the Planning Department, who came up with the pier mural idea three years ago.
"We wanted to make sure nothing was misrepresented, historically inaccurate."
That's particularly important this year, as the city partnered with the state, which is coordinating the sesquicentennial festivities.
A few artists bristled at the theme restrictions, though.
"The feedback I got was it wasn't that they didn't want a theme at all but this theme didn't fit their particular style," Brannon said.
"We hope there will be future opportunities. As long as we receive funding, we want to continue this project." Piers along Lee and Quarrier streets are the obvious future targets.