Furman University, Stone Academy bring color to Greenville’s North Main community
From The Greenville News
Article and photos by Elizabeth Sanders
Note: Stone Academy is an Arts in the Basic Curriculum (ABC) site.
People in the (Greenville) North Main community might’ve noticed new artwork popping up across town.
Stone Academy finished its third installment in a series of public murals in the area. This year’s work is a vibrant floral garden that covers the entire west-facing side of an office building at 217 Stone Avenue. The latest mural has been heavily shared on social media since a ribbon cutting earlier this week.
Students at Stone have been painting murals in the area since 2014. The first was a park scene on the side of the Rite Aid at the corner of Main and Stone. In 2015, they followed with an aquarium on the side of the scouts building at Earle Street Baptist Church.
This year the students created a vibrant floral garden on the side of an office building at 217 Stone Avenue. For the first time, they had a little help from Furman University students
For years, Furman’s arts students have participated in Artisphere. They’ve worked with chalk artists in the past, and this year the university sponsored the art lab.
“We had two students that did some demos. It was great,” said Furman Arts Chair Ross McClain. “They got to show off their skills and interact with folks. That’s what we want to do.”
That experience served as inspiration to become more engaged in the community.
“I knew Stone Academy was doing this mural thing,” said McClain. “I live in this neighborhood and my kids go to Stone. I wanted to figure out some way we could connect,” he said.
McClain reached out to Stephanie Burnette who heads up the Stone Academy effort as well as city council member Amy Ryberg Doyle to discuss the project.
Burnette invited the Furman students to help finish the Stone Avenue mural, while Doyle pointed McClain to Gene Berger with Horizon Records, where the idea for another mural was born.
“I had been hearing from Gene Berger that he wanted to preserve the Stone Academy art in his lot,” said Doyle, referring to art work from former Stone students that has begun aging after seven or eight years.
McClain decided to use his maymester course, often called May experience or “May ex” because the bonus semester serves to get students and faculty out of their comfort zones, to complete the project.
Seven students, only one of them an arts major, spent May ex collaborating with McClain and local artist Charlie Tyre on the project.
“This was a big gateway to get kids to sort of wade into art, because so many people have been talked out of it over the years,” said McClain. “They got to see what goes in to creating public art.”
The result is the newly placed Southern Sounds mural outside of Horizon Records (pictured above). It highlights local musicians who’ve impacted the Greenville community in unique ways. The mural features Russ Morin, a former local montessori school art teacher and artisan who built handmade ukeleles. Morin was heavily involved with the Horizon community. He passed away last year from cancer.
The other side of the mural honors Josh White, a Greenville native who became the first African American artist to sell a million records. His big hit “one meatball” is highlighted on the mural.
For the city’s part, it pitched in a $1,000 Art in Public Places grant.
“Art fills in the cracks in the city,” said Doyle, “we try to promote good housing and good business and good entertainment, retail and restaurants. When we see project from various leaders in the city, we’re glad to support them.”
The mural which sits on the north side of the Horizon parking lot is made of six large panels. The concrete wall beneath it is incorporated into the work. According to Doyle, the older paintings that were replaced will be preserved and returned to Stone Academy where they can once again hang.