Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Art Is Just Fine; The Omission Isn't

Cheryl Foster at work on her Market Building piece
And a lovely smile it is
The N&W porter was a valued member of the community
Cheryl talks to a mother-daughter
Cheryl faces her critics
My buddy (sometimes) Susan Jennings, who was scandalized when I criticized the selection of four people who were not from Roanoke to do the important artwork at the entrances of the renovated Roanoke City Market Building, asked me yesterday to go by and evaluate what was being done.

I did today. The work is good. It is appropriate: a Norfolk & Western Railroad porter. It is significant because these porters held high rank in the Black community here for many years and because N&W employed so many African-Americans, the middle class was large and thriving. That helped alleviate racial strife in the 1950s, '60s and '70s. When people are comfortable, they aren't likely to be unhappy.

I like piece. The artist, Cheryl Foster, is a lovely person and quite talented (she's also damn near my age at an astonishing 62; look at that smile above). Those helping put the tiled mural together are Roanokers who are among our immigrants (Cubans). That is good.

I think Cheryl's work is worthy and I'm sure the art of the others will be, as well. None of which addresses the essential criticism, which I think is still valid: there should be a Roanoker represented on this building--the very symbol of Roanoke. There isn't and won't be. I accept that. I don't know what else to say.


  1. I totally agree with you that it should have been an artist from Roanoke to have been chosen for this project. The City of Roanoke is happy to tout the presence of its artists when it suits their agenda such as the Arts & Cultural Plan, but fears that its artists are not as good as artists from outside the area when it comes to paid commissions. The quality and scope of Roanoke's artists'art is equal to any major city in the world.

  2. What's the old adage? "You're not a consultant unless you come from 100 miles away." Roanoke City seems to think the same of artists.