By Kennedy Carruthers
Carrboro Commons Writer
A team of four Carrboro women initiated a community-wide art project in 2001 called “5,000 Flowers” to commemorate the lives lost on Sept. 11.
The project was so successful that Carrboro and Chapel Hill residents created more than 50,000 paper flowers and placed them in venues throughout the towns.
Today, a similar art project continues. In its fifth year, the Community Art Project introduces a theme to Chapel Hill and Carrboro residents and urges them to submit a personal creation inspired by that theme.
“It’s such a great way for us all to be creative,” said Jackie Helvy, co-chair of the Community Art Project and a member of the original team of women who initiated “5,000 Flowers.” “The truth is, we’re all artists, we just have to find it within us.”
This year, “Elements” was the theme. From photos of leaves doused in dew and ducks swimming into the sunset to a picture representation of the elements in the periodic table, the participants’ interpretations were limitless.
Andi Sobbe, co-chair of the Community Art Project with Helvey, said the project has matured every year. “There were so many ways to interpret one simple theme, ” Sobbe said. “It’s the evidence of the degree of creativity in this community.”
Former themes include “Self Portrait,” “Dream,” “Lost and Found” and “Why.”
On Thursday, April 17, these creations, in the form of mosaics, watercolor and oil paintings, collages, flower arrangements, pencil and crayon drawings and ceramics, were featured in a slide show at Open Eye Cafe as a commencement to the community-wide project.
The project’s participants watched with pride as their creations were displayed on the screen, and they engaged in conversation with other participants to explain the inspiration behind their artwork.
Lee Bishop, publisher of leebishopgallery.blogspot.com, said photography is one of her favorite hobbies. The art project provided Bishop an opportunity to show off her work. Bishop opted to submit a color photograph, titled “Sparkles,” of sunlight on water from her time in Sedona, Ariz.
“That one just kept popping into my head,” she said.
Bishop’s photograph, along with 217 other creations, will be on display at nine venues in Carrboro and Chapel Hill through May: Open Eye Cafe; Chapel Hill Town Hall; Jack Sprat Cafe; Chapel Hill Public Library; The Carrboro Century Center; The ArtsCenter; Carrboro Town Hall; Seymour Senior Center; and the PTA Thrift Shop in Village Plaza.
The project was funded by the Chapel Hill Public Arts Commission, but the project received $500 from the Town of Carrboro after Helvey asked the Carrboro Arts Committee to help sponsor the event.
“Carrboro always reaped some of the benefits so I thought they should help,” Helvey said.
In addition to the individual projects, the community collaborated for a group art project to kick off this year’s Community Art Project.
Environmental artist Bryant Holsenbeck of Chapel Hill was hired to direct the creation of “Elements Labyrinth,” which features a path of concentric circles designed to walk for relaxation and meditation.
The labyrinth is made of invasive plant species from along Bolin Creek—namely privet. Community Art Project committee members and Friends of Bolin Creek member Bill Bradley gathered the plants for the construction of the labyrinth.
On March 1, members of the community helped build the “Elements Labyrinth,” located at the Community Center on Estes Drive behind the Strowd Rose Garden Shelter.
“We wanted to do something—a kickoff project—that everyone could be involved with,” Helvey said.
Today, the path is worn from the large volume of visitors who have walked the maze—an indication that community art projects are a treasured component of the Carrboro-Chapel Hill community.