Next spring, Winthrop University students will have a chance to create a permanent art display for one of Rock Hill’s main traffic arteries.
The Rock Hill City Council on Monday approved the use of a $30,000 grant to have students at Winthrop’s College of Visual and Performing Arts design the artwork that will be placed in the new traffic circle under construction on Constitution Boulevard and Columbia Avenue.
Fine arts professor Shaun Cassidy will lead the design project, with plans to submit a proposal for consideration by the end of the 2016 spring semester.
Work began earlier this month to clear the roadside around the intersection after the council approved a contract for the $4.1 million project in September. The circle also will connect traffic with West White Street, which currently ends on Columbia.
The traffic circle design is a public art project of the Rock Hill Designs for Rock Hill Places initiative, a collaboration between the city and the Rock Hill Economic Development Corp.
“The goal of Rock Hill Designs is to incorporate locally created, locally inspired art into areas of public investment,” said Allan Miller with the RHEDC’s quality of life committee.
Miller presented the proposal to the council on Monday, arguing the new roundabout offers the perfect location for a Rock Hill Designs art project, since it will feed into the Winthrop University campus and the planned Knowledge Park residential/commercial development along West White Street.
“As the gateway to Knowledge Park and also Winthrop, this is an ideal place to use art to bring together education and economic development,” Miller said.
The city will pay for the artwork using $30,000 out of a grant the city received in July from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Another portion of the grant, totaling $50,000, will go toward the Woolworth Walkway planned for East Main Street, which will honor Rock Hill’s civil rights history. The walkway was the first public arts project approved through the Rock Hill Designs initiative, and is slated for completion early next year.
Rock Hill economic development director Stephen Turner said the goal of Rock Hill Designs is to create a more visually pleasing environment using money the city would have to spend anyway on routine construction and landscaping costs for a project such as the traffic circle.
“We’re already going to spend the money, but this will get us a very different project,” Turner said.
The quality of life committee also plans to raise about $7,500 through the Barre Mitchell Community Initiative Fund.
The City Council voted to approve a project agreement with Winthrop University and the RHEDC setting out the terms of the project. The agreement requires Winthrop to “lead a public design process” in line with the goals of Rock Hill Designs, in which students and faculty will work alongside “professional artists, urban design professionals and the city of Rock Hill.”
Miller said that process will involve a “community engagement” component, likely including public meetings to review design proposals next spring.