Huntsville artists transform parking deck at Shops at Merchants Walk into public art
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Can a sterile parking deck ever be public art? Two Huntsville artists think so.
Robert Daniel and Andy Winn are the painters behind two new murals inside the concrete parking garage at The Shops at Merchants Walk on the corner of Bob Wallace Avenue and Memorial Parkway in Huntsville. Both murals feature elements familiar to the Rocket City – Big Spring International Park, downtown, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Lowe Mill water tower, Huntsville Botanical Garden and more.
Working late nights and early mornings to capitalize on quiet time when construction crews were not on site, Winn and Daniel finished the murals near the first floor entrance in just two weeks.
“The art speaks for itself,” RCP Companies Chief Financial Officer and project team manager Joe Grelier said. “They did an amazing job on a very tight timeline and they exceeded our expectations.”
RCP, which is developing The Shops at Merchants Walk, partnered with The Arts Council to design a public space that was authentic to Huntsville. Grelier said Whole Foods executives provided input based on their previous experience with public art on buildings or in garages.
The artists, who worked together on a notable mural for Lowe Mill in 2007, used a grid system to create the artwork. Daniel, a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design and Calhoun Community College, said the designs were then measured to scale to fit the walls of the garage.
“We had some general guidelines, but we wanted it to be very Huntsville specific,” he said. “We wanted to incorporate things that anyone who has lived here or even passed through would recognize and connect automatically with Huntsville.”
Winn, who has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Georgia, taught at UAH in the late 1990s. He has a show on display through Nov. 7 on the first floor of Lowe Mill.
Allison Dillon-Jauken, executive director of The Arts Council, said partnerships are critical in public art, and have helped her organization develop large- and small-scale projects like the SPACES Sculpture Trail and the locally-commissioned Downtown Book Boxes.
In 2013, The Arts Council partnered with the City of Huntsville and community to develop a Public Art Plan to ensure public art will continue to grow and develop in the area. Dillon-Jauken said the plan calls for The Arts Council to partner with private developers to incorporate public art in new projects as Huntsville evolves.
The nonprofit is constantly seeking public art opportunities in the community, she said. Working with developer Twickenham Square Venture LLC, the Huntsville Housing Authority and City of Huntsville, The Arts Council debuted a new public art installation last week honoring the educational contributions of Dr. William Hooper Councill and Dr. Sonnie Hereford III at Twickenham Square.
“We work with developers such as RCP to articulate their goals for public art in the project, we help to develop project budgets, and we recruit artists both locally and nationally to develop site specific art installations,” she said. “While this work is just beginning in Huntsville, it’s moving forward at a fast rate. As we look to the future, we expect to see public art in all major public and private developments across the city.”
Shops at Merchants Walk
RCP Companies, which specializes in live-work-play projects, currently has more than $500 million of development under construction or in planning across Alabama and Georgia. In addition to The Shops at Merchants Walk, the boutique real estate firm is behind the CityCentre at Big Spring and redevelopment of Madison Square Mall as MidCity Huntsville.
RCP is discussing how it can implement murals, sculpture and 3D artwork at both CityCentre and MidCity Huntsville over the next two years.
“Our relationship with The Arts Council has just begun,” Grelier said.
The first phase of The Shops at Merchants Walk includes a 90,000-square-foot retail center anchored by Whole Foods set to open at 8 a.m. Nov. 14. The development will feature nine other retailers and restaurants, including lululemon athletica, Farm Burger, Spa Sydell, Mountain High Outfitters, Maki Fresh, Orangetheory Fitness, Local Taco, The Masters Aveda Salon and DressUp Boutique.
Spokeswoman Lindsay Harper said only 10,000 square feet of boutique shop space is still available at the project.
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