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Mural supporting military unveiled as part of new Spring Lake Art Trail

Town board hears positive report from state treasury official

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SPRING LAKE — A mural depicting a message of support and gratitude for those who defend America was unveiled before the Spring Lake Board of Aldermen on Monday night as one of the first public art pieces to be painted on Main Street as part of a new Spring Lake Art Trail.

The board met at 6 p.m. in the Grady Howard Conference Room of Town Hall.

“Our goal tonight is to reinforce our relationship with Fort Bragg and to uplift city pride with visual arts that emphasize our support of our nation’s armed forces,” said Spring Lake Appearance and Sustainability Committee member David Dickerhoff.

Committee members including Chair Fredricka Sutherland, Vice Chair Cynthia Wilt, William Bryant and Dickerhoff presented the mural. Alderman Raul Palacios is an ex-officio member of the committee, and Stormwater Administrator Deanna Rosario serves as the staff liaison.

According to the presentation, the mural will cost $12,600 and be a two-year project. The Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland County has contributed $4,000 to the mural, and the committee plans to raise the rest of the money through private donations.

Artist Max Dowdle was chosen by the committee among other applicants because of his commitment to the theme of support for America and its military, according to Wilt, who has spearheaded the project.

The mural will showcase a large American flag as a backdrop, with soldiers marching forward and paratroopers parachuting from a plane, according to Dowdle.

“The proposed mural will be a vibrant and patriotic depiction of America, its troops, and the 82nd Airborne Division. This mural will be an artistic representation of the support and admiration that we, as Americans, have for our country and those who defend it,” said Dowdle in his description of the proposed mural, “It will be a powerful symbol of American patriotism and support for the military.”

The Board of Aldermen voted to approver the new public art piece.

“This is a conversation piece,” said Mayor Kia Anthony.

Dowdle has an extensive resume of working on large-scale public art installations and murals across the state and is currently working on projects for other North Carolina municipalities, including Oxford, Apex, Raleigh and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock. His past murals and art installations include those at the Institute for Marine Sciences at UNC Morehead City, Chapel Hill Transit Authority, Mooresville, Pinewoods Montessori in Hillsborough, UNC-Chapel Hill, sand Lynchburg, Virgini.

He studied art history at the College of Charleston and the Charles H. Cecil Studios in Florence, Italy. He prides himself on being a seventh-generation North Carolinian.

“Visual artists have the rare ability to capture the attention of sight and lodge an image in the memory for a lifetime,” said Dowdle.

The project wall will be prepped with a power washing and primer. As Dowdle works, the piece will be protected with anti-UV and anti-graffiti coating.

The committee hopes to hold a dedication ceremony in spring 2024.

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Other business

In other business, the board heard a positive financial update from David Erwin, the town’s finance officer and accounting and financial management adviser with the N.C. Department of the State Treasurer, who lauded the town for rebuilding its cash flow and general fund.

“It’s amazing what happens when you mind the ship,” said Erwin, who said the town had rebuilt its general fund from $1.6 million when the Local Government Commission took over to about $12 million in less than two years.

Alderman Palacios agreed that it was a massive feat.

“The state is still here, but this is a huge victory. We are figuring out the right roadmap,” said Palacios.

Erwin said that after two audits are completed the commission could look at amending the town’s fiscal accountability agreement with the LGC and possibly see an end to state control by the end of the year.

He also updated the town on American Rescue Plan Act funding, which allowed the LGC to purchase needed equipment and vehicles and also give staff members who worked through the past two years of rebuilding a bonus.

Approximately $375,000 will be used for employee bonuses with a higher percentage going to public safety staff. Other funds will be used to purchase a used ladder truck for the Fire Department, a new dump truck and mower for the street department, and a mini-excavator for the water department.

“Spring Lake has changed the way it serves citizens for the better,” said Erwin, who added the next step is to approve the 2023-24 budget.

A public hearing on the new budget will be held at 7 p.m. June 23.

Spring Lake, public art, Board of Aldermen, budget