Sculpture first under new policy, designed to commemorate emergency services work
Anyone driving through Waxhaw this fall will notice some new art in the area. During their Tuesday, April 26 meeting, the town council approved the first new sculpture since the town put together a public art policy last year.
The sculpture, to be created by local artist Tom Risser, is set to honor those emergency personnel who helped deal with the train derailment last July.
“I’m very much excited to see art return (to Waxhaw),” resident Denise Kuntz told the council. “It adds so much to the sense of community.”
Kuntz told the council about how she noticed artwork displayed throughout the downtown area of nearby Fort Mill and how much of an impression it left.
Previously, the town had commissioned sculptures to be placed around the area, but over the last few years, those pieces came down, bit by bit.
The problem, town manager Michael McLaurin said, was the shape of the sculptures, as some contained metal pieces with sharp edges.
“Our risk manager came down from Raleigh and said if you (allow the art to stay), we won’t (cover) you,” McLaurin said.
Last spring, the town created a public art policy, addressing permanent versus temporary art, how and who would be responsible for upkeep of art pieces and what kinds of art are allowed in the downtown area. Following that, local residents created the Waxhaw Arts Council to financially support the development of artists.
The wreck happened July 8, 2010 when a cargo train with 19 multiple grain cars went off the tracks and overturned near the intersection of Providence Road and N.C. Highway 75. Work crews spent days cleaning up the site
In the wake of the derailment, town officials felt this was the best time to start producing more artwork, honoring those emergency workers who helped deal with the situation. They approached Risser to assemble a sculpture, which he designed using portions of the debris from the derailment.
Risser unveiled his design at the April 26 meeting, showing council members and the crowd pictures of what would be an 11 foot tall piece, with four silhouettes representing the different agencies that assisted.
The problem, for at least some of the community, is the sculpture’s location, which will be at the intersection of West North Main and Jackson streets. Resident Brenda Stewart was opposed to the sculpture being directly in view from her house, asking commissioners why it wasn’t considered for a location closer to either the accident itself or the downtown.
She also questioned why town staff members had marked off the location and were measuring it already, when there were five choices for commissioners to vote on.
“We’re just measuring different locations,” Waxhaw Director of Public Services Todd Matthews explained, adding that the other locations had been marked off and measured as well, but kids had torn down some of the tape in at least one of those areas.
Commissioners approved the project at the North West and Jackson location, by a 3 to 2 vote. Commissioners Joyce Blythe and Phillip Gregory were in opposition.