Stanly County commissioners hear from public regarding library sculptures

Published 9:33 am Thursday, February 23, 2023

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The fate of the sculptures in front of the main branch of the Stanly County Public Library may soon be decided.

Stanly’s commissioners, at the recent retreat, approved the allocation of funds to demolish the sculptures because of problems dealing with homeless people sleeping in the space. Other problems stated included drug paraphernalia around the sculptures on multiple occasions.

The matter will be discussed at the next meeting of the Albemarle Historic Resources Commission at 6 p.m. March 14. The HRC has jurisdiction over it because the library is in the historic district. Demolishing the sculptures would fall under an exterior modification.

The HRC’s page on the City of Albemarle website states those who are “planning to make exterior modifications to a property within the Local Historic District, you must first obtain a Certificate of Appropriateness. Some modifications can be considered minor works and be approved administratively. All major works must be considered for approval by the Historic Resources Commission. “

According to David Fath, public information officer for the city of Albemarle, if the HRC denies the demolition request from the library and county, the decision could be appealed to the North Carolina Superior Court.

Members of the arts community spoke in public comments at Monday’s county commissioners meeting against the destruction of the sculptures, which were built in the 1970s and recently refurbished by volunteers.

Renee VanHorn, executive director of the Stanly County Arts Council, said the responsibility of the council is “to respect and honor the artist and their arts. Therefore, we are requesting the Stanly County commissioners slow down the process and explore all possibilities before destroying the public art (at the library).”

VanHorn said public art “is any media whose form, function and meaning are created for the general public through a public process.”

She said the art “was commissioned at the same time as the design and construction of the library. It was designed to be an integral part and extension of the library, not a standalone piece of art.”

Quoting a Stanly News & Press interview with the artist, George Bierline, he wanted the library to “have the extra advantage of art objects around so the patron can have this experience and perhaps learn from it.”

VanHorn also quoted Bierline as having said the sculptures “are economical since they are formed with concrete. They are not fragile; they are functional.”

She also said the sculptures were designed to be lit at night “to add to the attractiveness of the library.”

Addressing issues raised by the commissioners at the retreat, VanHorn said “removing the public art will not solve homelessness or drug problems. Those are societal problems and are not easily or quickly fixed.”

VanHorn said the commissioners and the art community need to have a conversation to explore different ideas.

Kathy Almond, treasurer of the Stanly County Arts Guild, asked the commissioners to “further investigate opportunities to save this artwork.”

She called the sculptures “an excellent example of collaboration and celebration of arts for our community.”

Almond asked, “Should we not work more diligently to preserve, protect and promote our resources and our assets, than to demolish, disrupt and destroy them?”

Editor’s Note: More comments from Almond can be found here.

About Charles Curcio

Charles Curcio has served as the sports editor of the Stanly News & Press for more than 16 years and has written numerous news and feature storeis as well. He was awarded the NCHSAA Tim Stevens Media Representative of the Year and named CNHI Sports Editor of the Year in 2014. He has also won an award from Boone Newspapers, and has won four North Carolina Press Association awards.

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