The scene opens with a proclamation by Arts Council Executive Director Deborah Martin Mintz that a movement is being launched to keep a beloved work of leased public art named Natural Embrace in downtown Fayetteville. The time is 4th Friday, February 23, at a semi-packed Arts Center. Mintz points out that, in a community-wide survey, Natural Embrace rose to the top as a favorite among several works of leased public art that have sprouted up in downtown, thanks to an initiative called Work In Progress.
The challenge: Raise $20,000 from community donations, to be matched up to $20,000 by the Arts Council, to make Natural Embrace permanent. Who’s IN?
Big donors step up to the plate. Arts lovers of all kinds chip in, too. And kids who can barely reach the donation box proudly give what they can – a dollar bill here and there. Every penny counts.
The spiraling Venus flytrap sculpture by artist Paul Hill is worth keeping, the folks say. A grassroots effort has begun in earnest.
In the weeks to come, the effort shows no sign of slowing. Speeches are delivered by dignitaries and Arts Council staff to civic and professional groups. In-kind ads run in local publications, featuring children from Capitol Encore Academy who are, well, embracing Natural Embrace (with hopes that their children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy it, too). Articles appear in various newspapers, along with at least one TV spot and several radio plugs. The buzz on social media also hits a feverish pitch. Even campaign signs go up around the sculpture: HELP ME STAY PLANTED HERE!
“It’s been incredible to witness the response from our community,” said Eric Lindstrom, a Fayetteville-based architect and chairman of the Arts Council’s Public Art Committee. “The warmth of giving and support has been overwhelming.”
By the April 30 deadline, the goal was not only reached, but surpassed with $26,854 donated, including pledges which are still arriving. The Arts Council will make up the remainder to purchase the Venus flytrap sculpture for $40,000. Because the goal was exceeded, “this frees up more funds to go toward public art in the future,” said Deborah Martin Mintz.
Now it’s time to celebrate. The public and media are invited to a gathering at
Natural Embrace at Person Street Square (across from the Cumberland County Courthouse). The time: Thursday, May 31, at 6 p.m. Come hear speeches by people who’ve led the charge and gracious donors who have big announcements about the future of public art in Fayetteville, including Ralph Huff, Chairman and Co-Founder of H&H Homes, Inc. Pose for group photos and take selfies in front of the sculpture, too. Tag for all your friends to see. Feel that hometown pride. Public art is here to stay in our city.
ABOUT THE ARTS COUNCIL
The Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County was founded in 1973. As a link between artists, arts and cultural organizations and the community, the nonprofit agency administers programs in partnership with a variety of local agencies to stimulate community development through the arts. The Arts Council supports individual creativity, cultural preservation, economic development and lifelong learning through the arts.
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The Arts Council’s grants, programs and services are funded in part by contributions from businesses and individuals, and through grants from the City of Fayetteville, Cumberland County and the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources.