The Sylva town board has its sights set on making public art a hallmark of the downtown experience, and last week town commissioners sat down to hash out the particulars of what it might take to launch a robust public art program.

There’s something missing from the streets of Sylva, the town’s board has been noticing, and lately they’ve been talking about how to fill the dearth of public art downtown. 

haywoodHazelwood will soon be home to a sculpture of a Plott hound, the fabled bear-hunting breed steeped in local lore and history.

art frA fiery inferno blasts through the sheet metal like a hot knife through butter. The screeching sound of a grinder echoes down into the valley surrounding Waynesville. Flipping up her face shield, metal sculptor Grace Cathey wipes her brow, smiles momentarily then shuts the mask back down. She’s in the midst of her creation and all focus is on the task at hand.

“I’ve been an artist in this area for over 32 years and I’ve had so much support from the community. It’s overwhelming and I feel so blessed,” she said. “I chose this community because I knew this would be a great place to live, and it has been.”

Finding a new home for the Folkmoot sculpture in downtown Waynesville has taken a new turn.

The Waynesville public art commission initially proposed moving the art piece across the street — from its current spot in front of the new town hall to the old town hall.

When the art commission asked the town to sign off on the move earlier this month, however, the town board had a different idea.

The board agreed that the structure must be moved but felt old town hall wasn’t fitting for several reasons. One was there simply is not enough room. The other was lack of visibility to adequately showcase the piece. Plus, the town board expressed concerns that the “disco-ball effect” created by spinning flags on top of the statue would irritate people in adjacent office buildings.

Such complaints by the police department was one of the reasons for moving it in the first place. There have also been occasions when one or more of the flags has fallen off the statue because of high winds that whip by it.

Town board members are strongly considering placing it somewhere on the grounds of the historic courthouse and justice center — a prominent locale for a sculpture celebrating one of Waynesville’s most well known festivals. The art piece features a flowing, banner-like dancer with seven flags that turn in the wind to represent the famed international dance and music festival.

The statue was installed at its current location in 2009 and was created by renowned artist Wayne Trapp.

Donations are already rolling in for the Waynesville Art Commission’s latest public art piece, a replica of the historic Smokies’ arch over Main Street, but the group is still looking for donors.

“I am real pleased with the response so far,” said Jan Griffin, head of the art commission.

The art commission has already sent out its first wave of fundraising letters to many of the established local families of Waynesville and plans to mail more letters in the coming weeks. The donations will help pay for a “Gateway to the Smokies” arch, which will be installed in the mini-park at the corner of Main and Depot streets. The original arch spanned Main Street itself for several decades, proclaiming the town as the “Eastern Entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

So far, the commission has received about $2,000 in private donations toward a new Waynesville arch that will cost between $5,000 and $6,000.

“We are very pleased with that,” said Griffin. “The interest is very, very high. We’ve got an awful lot of really excited people about it.”

With one possible exception.

Town Manager Lee Galloway received a phone call from Bryson City Town Manager Lee Callicutt a couple of months ago regarding the wording on the arch. The piece will read “Gateway to the Smokies,” a slogan that Bryson City has used on its seal and police department badges for decades.

“He said that he had been directed to pass the concern of the Town of Bryson City on to me,” Galloway said.

Some in Bryson were less than thrilled that Waynesville’ arch would bear their catch phrase. Nothing else came of the concern.

The art commission has created and installed three permanent public art pieces around town during the past few years. The latest addition will be the archway, the second art piece referencing the Smokies in the mini-park on the corner across from the historic courthouse. Already in place is a metal railing with mountain peaks and salamanders.

The art commission premiered its artistic renderings of the arch earlier this fall.

Ed Kelley, who has headed the project, is now taking the sketches of the arch to an engineer who will act as a consultant, suggesting specifically how the arch will be made and what it will be made of.

“Everything has to be very specific,” Kelley said.

Once the parameters are set, the commission will take bids from several area artists and award the project to the lowest bidder.

People who wish to donate to help pay for the arch can write a check to the Town of Waynesville and drop it at the municipal building on Main Street. Donors should note that the money is for the art project in the memo line.

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