JACKSON – For centuries, Northampton County’s rich soil has made the land ripe for producing top quality agricultural products.
With that in mind, plans are underway to erect a statue/sculpture that pays tribute to those who till that fertile soil.
Judy Collier, chairperson of the Northampton County Cultural Arts Committee, pitched a plan recently to the county’s Board of Commissioners, a sculpture – “Man and a Plow” – destined to be placed near the main entrance of the Northampton County Cultural and Wellness Center.
“This sculpture will be of no cost to the county,” Collier explained to the board. “It will be funded through a Grassroots Grant from the North Carolina Arts Council and through private funding.”
Prior to bringing the plan before the commissioners, Collier said she had made the county manager aware of the process, as well as James Roberts and Debbie Warren, respectively the county’s Recreation Director and Council on Aging Director, both whose offices are located at the Cultural and Wellness Center.
Collier introduced the sculptor, Cathy McInville, who owns and operates Conway Studio Works.
“I’m not an artist, so if you have any questions in regards to the sculpture you can direct those to Mrs. McInville,” Collier said.
McInville noted that the sculpture would stand 6-foot, 4-inches tall, constructed of steel rebar wrapped in copper wire that was salvaged during a renovation of her Conway-based business. The sculpture depicts a man, with a hat in his left hand, wiping the sweat from his brow while standing behind a farm plow, thus paying tribute to Northampton’s agricultural heritage.
While the commissioners were openly receptive to the idea of permitting this particular sculpture to be erected, they expressed concern over the lack of a local policy that allows the display of artwork on county-owned property, and the message those works of art may carry.
“It’s a very nice sculpture, I have nothing against it, nor am I in opposition to the meaning it portrays,” said Commission Vice-Chair Virginia Spruill as she looked at a pencil drawing of McInville’s artistic work. “My point is this….when we start allowing sculptures and other works of art erected on county property, we do not have a policy in place in terms of what types of statues, sculptures can be erected. (Without a policy) we cannot control what type of message these statues, sculptures may display; what we want it to say about our county.
“I think we need to have a policy in place before we start erecting a statue…..where they’re going to be located, how they are going to look, what message they will be depicting, everything; that’s my opinion,” Spruill added.
“This particular sculpture, will it be permanent,” asked Commissioner Joe Barrett.
“Yes, it will be placed in a concrete base,” Collier replied.
“I not against this particular statue, but I agree that it will behoove us to have a policy in place. If we don’t, then the next project may not be public worthy; we don’t want to deny that person without a reason; that’s where a written policy comes in to play,” stressed Barrett.
Collier added that the planned placement of the sculpture would be positioned where it could be seen from NC 305.
McInville and Collier both agreed with the commissioners that a policy is needed prior to any work of art being permitted on county-owned property. Collier asked what type of time frame is needed to develop such a policy.
“That’s something the county manager could better determine,” Spruill said. “He needs to set up a committee, let them meet and develop a draft policy to bring before this board.”
Board Chairman Robert Carter, after hearing the concerns and suggestions of his colleagues, asked for a motion to deal with the issue at hand.
“I move that a committee needs to be formed to develop and bring back a policy to us for our review and approval for this statue at the Cultural and Wellness Center and other statues, sculptures, plaques or artistic items moving forward planned for county-owned property,” offered Barrett.
Spruill seconded the motion, which passed without objection.
(Editor’s note: The October edition of Front Porch Magazine, a quarterly product published by Roanoke-Chowan Publications, features an article on Cathy McInville and her entire realm of art at Conway Studio Works.)