The city of Mount Airy has received what could be considered a belated Christmas gift — an anonymous donation that will enable a project to provide sculptures for a downtown site to be completed without municipal tax funds.
Mount Airy officials approved an agreement Thursday which calls for Reidsville artist Brad Spencer to create seven brick sculptures of noteworthy local residents at a cost of $58,623. The statues will be placed later this year at a spot on the corner of North Main and West Oak streets known as the Whittling Wall.
Heading into Thursday’s vote, it appeared the entire project cost, including rehabilitation of the wall and other expenses, would exceed a state grant awarded for the sculptures. The $104,922 total eclipsed by $10,582 the $94,340 grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce.
Officials had said earlier the project would require no funding beyond that of the grant, which was strained by a decision to include seven sculptures rather than six as initially planned.
City documents released before last week’s meeting indicated that the commissioners planned to use money from a municipal reserve fund to make up the difference.
However, it later was revealed that an anonymous private donor had come forward at some point to supply the additional $10,582 for the Whittling Wall sculptures.
These will depict Donna Fargo, a Grammy-winning country and pop singer who grew up in Mount Airy and now lives in Nashville; old-time fiddler Tommy Jarrell; Ralph Epperson, the founder of local radio station WPAQ, a flagship for the traditional mountain music of this region;
Also, Fred Cockerham, an old-time banjo player and fiddler; Flip Rees, a longtime retailer in downtown Mount Airy; and two other figures portraying an anonymous whittler (reflecting the history of the wall as a gathering place for local men) and a mill worker to honor Mount Airy’s textile heritage.
Under a timetable released for the Whittling Wall project, the statues are to be in place by August, accompanied by landscaping and bronze plaques, with a grand opening and dedication ceremony set for Sept. 15.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.