Charlotte artist to create mural live at Arbor Day Festival

Published 9:02 am Monday, April 24, 2023

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Along with the regular festivities of the annual Norwood Arbor Day celebration, a new mural at the town’s farmers market will be painted by a well-known Charlotte artist.

John Hairston Jr. mixes street art with his own sense of expression to create pieces which are in galleries across the country and beyond.

Having grown up drawing superheroes, Hairston makes regular appearances in the Charlotte area at two comic book conventions, HeroesCon and MiniCon.

A graduate of UNC-Charlotte in 2003, Hairston also received a master’s degree from the University of Hartford in 2021.

His work can be seen in various collections, including the Charlotte Hornets and Carolina Panthers, Charlotte’s Mint Museum and at UNC-Charlotte.

Robin Davis, president of Norwood Central Business District Group, said the town had tried to get Hairston to do a mural a couple of years ago. She said she is really excited about Hairston’s mural, which will be in the farmers’ market area of the town’s social district.

The sketch of a bull for the mural, Davis said, ties into the agriculture of the area along with South Stanly High School’s mascot, the Rowdy Rebel Bulls.

Davis also thanked Norwood citizen Barb Munger, who introduced her to Hairston’s work. Davis said Munger “is an art lover and has been great fun to work with on this project.”

Funding for the mural, she said, came from the Stanly County Arts Council. Davis said she wished to thank its director, Renee Van Horn, as well as the Norwood Town Council and town staff, “who are always so supportive of the arts and are so wonderful to work with.”

Inspiration for the mural, Hairston said, comes from combining unlikely characters or ideas together.

“I really get a big kick out of putting things together that otherwise wouldn’t go,” Hairston said. “A bull is strength, dominance. It’s aggression, but at the same time, it can be a protector, a cow, a peaceful animal. Whenever I work with animals I use a lot of symbolism.”

An animal as a symbol, he added, “can mean many things to many different people. I was trying to do something to encompass all those things and have that as the thing that brings together the people of Norwood.”

His art, Hairston said, comes from life experiences, framing stories to appeal to people of all ages.

When it comes to a bull, he said, he recalled the Chuck Jones days of Looney Tunes cartoons, and the Bugs Bunny cartoon, “Bully For Bugs.” In that cartoon, Bugs “should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque” and ends up fighting a bull.

“You had a big, menacing bull, but he was also kind of goofy. I wanted to play with that straight over-the-top nature,” Hairston said.

He said the bull will be “a massive guardian” to the area.

“That’s always been a thing for me, to make it fun for my inner child,” Hairston said.

Having worked at HeroesCon since 2000 creating art live in front of fans, his work at the upcoming festival will be similar, creating the mural as festival goers watch.

He said he likes to tap into that place where instead of telling someone what he can do, he will show by creating the art in front of people.

Hairston will create the mural between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday.

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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