“All the dissenters have quieted down and everybody is happy now,” said John Paul Stout, the city’s sustainable development manager in charge of the project.
Stout confirmed he has issued Wrens artist Lucy McTier a six-month permit to start painting the $24,000 piece of public art, which was approved for funding through a $1.8 million community challenge grant awarded to Augusta from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
McTier said Monday she hopes to begin the 1,600-square-foot composition in the next two weeks, after she finishes drawing a portrait, compiling a list of paint colors and recruiting an army of artists for the project through the help of the Augusta Arts Council.
“This is going to be fun,” McTier said.
McTier’s husband, David McTier, said in the past month artists from as far away as Savannah have called to volunteer to help with the mural, after seeing reports that the project had been put under a two-week “calming period,” because a Paine College official complained the public art’s approved design failed to capture Beard’s contributions as a former educator in the local community.
“This project has reached far past Augusta, Georgia,” David McTier said.
Stout said the heightened publicity, in part, was caused by a misunderstanding, explaining that the mural was never intended to be a tribute to Beard.
Federal and state guidelines say that the artwork must be an undivisive, community-generated piece of public art that captures a sustainable vision for the area and not a composition dedicated to the work of a historic figure.
Leah Suggs, Paine College spokeswoman, has said that neither the school nor the official who made the complaint – Brandon Brown, senior vice president of institutional advancement – wished to comment any further on the project “at this time.” She did not return phone calls Monday.
Beard died in December 2010 at age 89. An educator for almost 40 years, she taught thousands of young people in Augusta; founded The Rocket Club for students interested in aeronautics and space; and through her debutante club, prepared young ladies for adulthood.
She was active at Antioch Baptist Church and a board member of Shiloh Comprehensive Community Center – a senior center, food pantry and youth-tutoring facility.
The transformation of the 15th Street bridge that bears her name was completed in February after six months of public input meetings at Josey High School and the Augusta Mini Theatre on Deans Bridge Road.
McTier said the mural will go up after all supplies are delivered and the wall is spray washed, has time to dry and is divided into grids for artists to paint. The artwork will be sealed with a protective coating that will make it easy to clean if anyone paints graffiti on it.
Members of the community said they support the art and the positive change it hopes to bring.
“Anything that would liven up the area and improve the image of the bridge would be nice,” said John Turner, whose business, Turner Transportation Specialists, has been the bridge’s next-door neighbor for nearly 20 years. “The mural would brighten the bridge with some color, while promoting the community.”