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Student public art project back to the drawing board after tests reveal possible issues

BUCKHANNON – The Consolidated Public Works Board voted against approving the placement of a student art project on the sidewalks along the Strawberry Festival parade route after testing the materials involved.

Buckhannon-Upshur Middle art teacher Alyssa Murphy previously attended the Oct. 27, 2022, CPWB meeting to propose an art project that would utilize public sidewalks during the festival as part of an effort to teach individuality, creativity and collaboration. The plan was to take portraits of the participating students and display them on a public sidewalk, such as along the parade route or Main Street. There would potentially be about 300 portraits created on special paper that would be held to the sidewalk with wheat paste.

At the time, the board wanted to test the materials to see how the project would deteriorate over time. Mayor Robbie Skinner said they did perform a test using the same materials in the city hall parking lot over the course of 10 days. The test led to questions involving the different types of sidewalks along the parade route and how the material might respond to rain, especially during a high-traffic time like the festival.

“I ran my foot over it a couple of times, and it was a little slick,” Skinner said. “I think we need to be cognizant of the different sidewalks along the parade route — not all were constructed at the same time, so there are different textures, and there’s a significant incline/decline at Kanawha Hill. If you’re walking down through there, if it should get slick with rain or snow, it could be treacherous.”

The city also considered various other parts of town for the paper portraits but ultimately felt a different project might work better.

“We talked about different areas in town where this could be instead of the parade route, but from what I observed, it didn’t hold up the way I thought it would,” Skinner said.

Board member Jack Reger said he appreciated the concept of the project but didn’t want to risk anyone injuring themselves.

“I’m sorry, I really did like the idea, but in our experience with Strawberry Festival and rain, there’s almost no doubt it’s going to happen,” Reger said.

He suggested contacting businesses around town about alternative locations to display the art.

“I totally get where you guys are coming from,” Murphy told the board. “I think it’s a good idea to talk to businesses, but we have around 300 students and I don’t know how that would be done with businesses. I feel like it’s asking a lot, so I think we have to go back to the drawing board on this one.”

The CPWB also approved two event requests including the South Buckhannon Mission Church Easter Egg Hunt in City Park on Sunday, April 9, 2023, and the Relay for Life Celebration at Jawbone Park on June 24, 2023.

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