A new year, headlined by a new instrument, is off and running for a Mount Airy Downtown Inc. (MAD) fundraiser.
Friday evening the banjos, which will be on display as part of this year’s Public Art Banjo Crawl, were revealed at an event at the Earle Theatre.
In the prior two years, MAD’s Public Art Fiddle Crawl has been a huge success, raising more than $45,000 since the program’s inception. Those funds, according to Main Street Coordinator Lizzie Morrison, are poured back into the community through programs which support the arts.
In March, the program earned statewide attention when the N.C. Department of Commerce named it one of the “best special events” associated with main street programs throughout the state.
With two year’s of successful fiddle crawls under its belt, MAD turned its attention toward a new instrument, which — like the fiddle — embodies the musical heritage of the area.
This year’s banjo crawl began in December, when MAD invited local artists to submit their designs to decorate the 7-foot-tall banjo sculptures. Local businesses and individuals also fund the program through sponsoring individual banjos.
Twenty-one local artists submitted designs for the banjos. Seven were picked to decorate the large banjo sculptures, and another 12 used smaller banjoleles as their canvass.
Friday night was the first time members of the public were able to put their eyes on the pieces of art. More than 250 people turned out to the event, according to Morrison, which included live music by Ben & Eric Marshall & Friends.
Morrison added a cocktail hour, which preceded the event, filled Uncorked to capacity.
The banjo sculptures will go on display in front of downtown businesses throughout the spring and summer months, according to Morrison. The bangoleles will be on display at the Mount Airy Visitor Center.
“The banjo crawl reveal event is one of the coolest celebrations of cultural heritage I’ve ever attended. The art was amazing, the music was wonderful, and I could feel an outpouring of support for this program. Many who attended let me know that the event inspired them to create again,” stated Morrison.
“I especially loved that many of the designs were inspired by downtown revitalization themes. The art community and downtown are in tune with each other, and I absolutely love seeing local artists brightening up the downtown district.”
On Nov. 4, the instruments will be auctioned at an event at Old North State Winery.
Local artists who completed sculptures included the following.
• Members of the MAD Promotions Committee completed a banjolele entitled “Mount Airy Downtown.”
• Alicia Merritt, a teacher at Millennium Charter Academy, completed a banjolele named “Carolina Celtic Roots.”
• Jan Atkins’ banjolele “Peace and Harmony” was among those revealed.
• “Isaiah 40:8,” a banjolele creation of Kelly Marion, will also be auctioned in November.
• Angie Walker presented her banjolele, “Evening Serenade.”
• Mike Lowe’s banjolele is called “As Different as Night and Day!”
• Keenia Beck’s banjo sculpture entitled “Just Bee” draws “inspiration from the hard-working, passionate and dynamic thinkers promoting downtown development.”
• “Art. Every. Day.,” a creation of Kayla Ellis, “seeks to link the once popular ‘paint by number’ painting kits of the 1950s and 1960s that brought oil painting to the masses with today’s adult coloring books.”
• Lizzie Morrison drew inspiration for her banjo, “Long Time Coming,” from “the growing pains that accompany progress in our community, and in many small towns in America.”
• Will Shepard’s banjo, “The Rainbow Connection,” will be raffled rather than auctioned. Raffle tickets are $5 each. The banjo serves as a reminder “even though our surroundings, society, or perhaps even our local paper wants to dampen our spirits, we know some day, we will reach our goals, and find our treasure out there somewhere, whatever that might be.”
• “Banjo Bouquet,” Jessica Bolick Cockerham’s banjo sculpture, is a “floral collage” compiled of 100 percent printed cotton fabric.
• A banjo entitled “Stop Animal Abuse Awareness” by Eric Leathers is simplistic, an attribute “intended to stand apart from the other vibrant and beautiful designs in order to raise awareness and help prevent animal cruelty and suffering in our community.”
• “Henry’s Tune,” a banjo sculpture created by Lizzie Morrison and 5th-grader Ann Patterson Sparks, was inspired by N.A. and Judy Barnes’ dog and the family’s home, known as “Henry’s View.” Ann is the grand-daughter of the couple.
• Katie Jones’ banjolele, “The Future Meets the Past,” was unveiled Friday evening.
• A banjolele named “Sealidoscope” was designed and created by Andrea Miller.
• The crowd laid their eyes upon Nick Martin’s banjolele, “Abstract Universe.”
• “Music Adds Joy to Life,” a banjolele sculpture created by Candice Martin, was also among the sculptures presented.
• Jessica Bennett’s banjolele, “Messengers of Love,” was displayed.
• Philip Earnst showed off his banjolele, “Man in the Moon.”
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.