A new public art park for downtown Winston-Salem is on its way.
Derwin Montgomery, the East Ward city council member in Winston-Salem, made the surprise announcement at the Embassy Suites downtown today as a part of the Fall meeting of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership.
Montgomery, with the help of Harry Knabb, the CEO of the Art for Art’s Sake (AFAS) group, unveiled the design for the new $2 million park, which will be called ARTivity on the Green.
“This park will serve as a message that this city is a city of art,” Knabb said. “It will be a beacon for downtown.”
The park will be mostly green space, with a number of paths that converge at the center of the area.
Red lines set in the pavement will direct visitors into the park, eventually converging at the center and rising as pipes 50 feet into the air, creating 13 red “masts.” These masts will intermittently produce illuminated vapor to create colorful smoke-like formations in the sky, referencing the industrial past of Winston-Salem.
ARTivity on the Green will also provide established local artists with space to display their works on a rotation, and a long, concrete wall that will act as an artistic canvas.
Kept under wraps for months, the project is the result of efforts by AFAS to expand the arts district of Winston-Salem and a private grant from the Thomas J. Regan Jr. Foundation, according to Knabb.
The park will replace a run-down parking lot on Liberty Street between Sixth and Seventh streets.
The lot was not initially up for sale, but Knabb said AFAS managed to buy the area after he gave the “best sales pitch of his life.”
As Trade Street has flourished as the center of the Arts District in recent years, the Liberty Street area has remained relatively quiet. Knabb said ARTivity on the Green will help create an atmosphere for investors and prospective business owners on Liberty Street.
“We wanted to do something big for the community,” Knabb said. “This project will effectively double the size of the arts district.”
The AFAS group will manage the construction of ARTivity on the Green with local businesses such as design firm STITCH Design Shop, landscaping firm Stimmel Associates, and general contractor Frank L. Blum Construction Co.
According to Knabb, the park could be finished as early as May 2015.
“I bet Harry [Knabb] will finish the park himself if he has to,” said Jason Thiel, the President of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership. “This is a huge project for AFAS, and it’s important they get the support and encouragement they need to complete it.”
Jennifer O’Kelly, one of the founders of the DeLurk Gallery downtown, has known about the project for a while. She says there has been some concern about the loss of parking in the neighborhood.
“People will lose parking, but they’ll gain a public park that is going to create a better quality of life for the community,” said O’Kelly. “There will be more room for artists to show their work. As an artist myself I couldn’t be more excited to have a venue like this.”
The Nov. 6 meeting also featured plans to improve the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter presented by Dr. Eric Tomlinson, and updates from the new owners of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. headquarters about the structure’s conversion into a mixed-use building with luxury apartments, a hotel, and a restaurant.