Hundreds of people crowded into Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library Saturday, June 5 for the unveiling of the Town of Clayton’s latest public art piece–a colorful mural depicting the life and times of Clayton.
For hours after a brief ceremony headlined by Mayor Jody McLeod, crowds filed through the library to see the work of art which includes 44 different vignettes of historical figures and landmarks as well as representations of business, civic and cultural life.
“Usually people come into the library for some quiet reading or study, but for quite a while this place is going to have some buzz,” the Mayor said, “and, it’s because of this beautiful mural.” Jim Brown of Clayton, an illustrator/designer, and his wife, Ginny, who is also an illustrator/designer, began working on the piece in March and finished it just in time for the ceremony. “It was a tremendous amount of fun,” Brown said. “I especially enjoyed the people who came by to watch it in progress. I enjoyed meeting all the people and talking with them while I worked. There are a lot of good people in Clayton and Johnston County.”
The mural tells the story of Clayton’s history, from its early days as a small community, through a lot of glory years to its present-day status as one of the nation’s most talked-about small towns. “What stands out about the mural is the wide range of subjects and the illustrator’s attention to detail,” said Suzette Rodriguez, chairman of the town’s Public Art Advisory Board. Library Director Betty Coats called the mural “wonderful.” “It’s so real you feel like you can reach out and touch the people in it,” she said. “It’s just perfect.”
The mural is 10 feet tall and stretches about 27 feet down the hallway connecting the library’s primary collection to the south wing. People visiting the library have been able to watch the Browns at work.
In December, the Advisory Board selected Brown for the project after reviewing a number of applications. In January, the group hosted public meetings so that residents could offer the artist ideas for the mural’s subject matter. Funding for the project was provided by the Town of Clayton, Clayton Visual Arts, Hocutt-Ellington’s Friends of the Library and the Woman’s Club of Clayton.
The library mural is the Town of Clayton’s second public art project. Last year, Local artist Dorothy Demboski painted a 10-foot by 10-foot mural titled “Clayton Patchwork” on an upstairs wall of the Clayton Center.