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Council knows what it likes, sort of, in public art choices

Councilman Jeff Collis, Mayor Barbara Volk and Councilman Steve Caraker study public art proposals. Councilman Jeff Collis, Mayor Barbara Volk and Councilman Steve Caraker study public art proposals.

Hendersonville City Council members moved Thursday night from choosing the design of two prominent pieces of public art to designing the art themselves.

The council named two artists as finalists, one who submitted a stone and copper design, the other a designer who submitted a soaring tree-like structure as the Seventh and Main gateway art.
Sensitive to public comment the city had received on four finalists for the two projects in the northern-most blocks of Main Street and aware that their decision could literally set in stone a downtown icon for decades, the council moved cautiously.
Fountain project by Berry BateCouncilman Jerry Smith noted that people looking at the proposals by the finalists, Berry Bate and Bruce White, should not assume that the council had endorsed exactly those images.
"The designs that they are looking at, we did not approve those designs," he said. "We approved the artist and we are looking at something else."
Council members agreed that they liked some elements of the proposals by Bate and White but not the actual project they had before them. In the case of Bate, they asked for a modified design incorporating some elements of downtown architecture that made the fountain look like Hendersonville.
Councilman Steve Caraker said he would like to see "this same concept but we reshape the copper into something that was actually here and take the rock and put some granite images in it that actually fit our personality."
Councilman Ron Stephens recommended that Bate review photos for ideas.
"I think if we're going to select her, we try to get her to look at historic pictures of the buildings downtown and see if she sees any features" worthy of including, he said.
The iron work on Jump Off Rock, which mimics the Blue Ridge mountains, is an example of what she can do and what the council is looking for, Smith said.
The fountain is included in the design of the city's $1.4 million makeover of the 500 and 600 blocks of North Main Street, the final phase of the city's three-phase upgrade of the central business district. The fountain would go on an 11-foot diameter round platform on the outer edge of the First Citizens Bank plaza.
As for the gateway project at Seventh and Main, in the parking lot of the Umi restaurant, council members again selected the artist without endorsing the specific proposal the artist submitted.
Gateway project by Bruce White"In looking at Bruce White's designs on the website, he's got a lot I like better than this," Mayor Barbara Volk said.
"Does that look anything close to you're entering into a historic village?" Stephens said.
"Well, I sure hope he does something totally different."
City Manager Bo Ferguson and Main Street Director Lew Holloway will next make contact with the artists and request that they submit new proposals incorporating the council's comments. Since the council discussion was wide-ranging and different members made various suggestions, Ferguson said he might make the tape of the meeting available.