Art project breathes sense of life to alleyway in downtown Lumberton

Project adds color to old, boarded-up windows in Lumberton alleyway

Tomeka Sinclair Staff writer

			
				                                Courtesy photo | Scott Biglow
                                Some Public Schools of Robeson County art students and teachers have loaned their talent to help spruce up an alley in downtown Lumberton. Artworks can now be seen covering some of the old, boarded windows between Elm and Chestnut streets.

Courtesy photo | Scott Biglow

Some Public Schools of Robeson County art students and teachers have loaned their talent to help spruce up an alley in downtown Lumberton. Artworks can now be seen covering some of the old, boarded windows between Elm and Chestnut streets.

<p>Tomeka Sinclair | The Robesonian</p>
                                <p>Some Public Schools of Robeson County art students and teachers have loaned their talent to help spruce up an alley in downtown Lumberton. Artworks can now be seen covering some of the old, boarded windows between Elm and Chestnut streets.</p>

Tomeka Sinclair | The Robesonian

Some Public Schools of Robeson County art students and teachers have loaned their talent to help spruce up an alley in downtown Lumberton. Artworks can now be seen covering some of the old, boarded windows between Elm and Chestnut streets.

<p>Tomeka Sinclair | The Robesonian</p>
                                <p>Shown is one of the painted wooden panels that now covers an old, boarded window in an alleyway in downtown Lumberton. The painting, completed by St. Pauls High School art students and teachers, depicts a storefront with flowers and candy.</p>

Tomeka Sinclair | The Robesonian

Shown is one of the painted wooden panels that now covers an old, boarded window in an alleyway in downtown Lumberton. The painting, completed by St. Pauls High School art students and teachers, depicts a storefront with flowers and candy.

<p>Tomeka Sinclair | The Robesonian</p>
                                <p>Shown is one of the painted wooden panels that now cover an old, boarded window in an alleyway in downtown Lumberton. The painting, completed by St. Pauls High School art students and teachers, depicts an old candy shop storefront.</p>

Tomeka Sinclair | The Robesonian

Shown is one of the painted wooden panels that now cover an old, boarded window in an alleyway in downtown Lumberton. The painting, completed by St. Pauls High School art students and teachers, depicts an old candy shop storefront.

<p>Tomeka Sinclair | The Robesonian</p>
                                <p>Shown is one of the painted wooden panels that now covers an old boarded window in a Lumberton downtown alleyway. The abstract work is by Scotty Thompson, an art teacher at Lumberton High School.</p>

Tomeka Sinclair | The Robesonian

Shown is one of the painted wooden panels that now covers an old boarded window in a Lumberton downtown alleyway. The abstract work is by Scotty Thompson, an art teacher at Lumberton High School.

LUMBERTON — Local students and teachers have used art to breathe colorful new life into an alleyway in downtown Lumberton.

Their works or art are displayed on wooden panels placed strategically so as to cover old, boarded-up windows, an idea the city’s Downtown Development members embraced after traveling to other downtown areas across North Carolina. The art installation can be seen while strolling between Chestnut and Elm streets behind the Carolina Civic Center.

“Other communities are doing this, and we thought it would be a really neat idea for us to take some of the boarded-up windows around downtown,” said Connie Russ, Lumberton’s Downtown Development coordinator.

This is just a continuance of art installations throughout downtown, Russ said. Several pieces of art already have made their way to the downtown area, including a metal sculpture at the newly renovated Downtown Plaza, a mural and an interactive park bench at the river walk. The artwork is part of a master plan by the city to revitalize downtown and transform the area into a pedestrian hub.

“What we’re trying to do is establish a vision and a strategic direction for cultivating future investments and growth in our downtown,” Russ said. “What better way to do it then with art?”

The window art was a collaborative plan involving the City of Lumberton and the Public Schools of Robeson County that’s been in the making for since November.

“It was too big a project for one school,” said Sandi Carter, arts educator supervisor for the Public Schools of Robeson County.

St. Pauls High School art teachers Karena Kimble and Kevin Locklear completed a few of the nine paintings with the help of students Osvaldo Miranda, Tiffany Smith, Kenny Hunt, Rodrigo Ciriarco, Destiny Chambers, Hailey Davis, Breonna Tolson Tucker and Shavanna Cartagena. Scotty Thompson, an art teacher at Lumberton High School completed the majority of the works.

“St. Pauls decided to go with a candy shop-flower shop look, while Lumberton went with a more abstract,” Carter said.

Russ said creating the panels has been in the works since November but the holiday break and COVID-19 caused setbacks.

“It took six months to get those panels done, but we stuck with it and we were not deterred,” Russ said. “We ran into lots of obstacles, but through awesome dedication of those art teachers, they stayed with it.”

Seven of the pieces are about 4 feet wide and 6 feet tall and two are two feet wide and 4 feet tall.

“The City of Lumberton bought the wood and the paint and delivered them to the schools,” Russ said.

Russ said the original plan was to have each piece of art depict a storefront window and give the space a since of openness.

“It didn’t work out that way, but we’re kinda glad,” Russ said. “It really turned out well because we have different artists’ interpretations.

“People love them. They’re beautiful. It’s a great improvement to what was there.”

Having the students take part in the work has created an opportunity for students to participate in the community and get their work known to the public, she said.

“It’s another way for students to see how they can apply art learned in the classroom out here in the real world,” Carter said.

The revitalization of downtown Lumberton in the past three years has been attributed to many entities working together.

“Through the city’s efforts and the state’s efforts, Mainstreet, Rediscover Downtown Lumberton, The Robeson County Arts Council — all of these people pulling together — we have really been able to make a difference.

“I have been in this position for about 19 years and we have been working through downtown revitalization for as long as I can remember, Russ said. “I have seen recessions, we have seen two floods, we have seen a pandemic and it has really made it difficult for small business owners to put down roots in our downtown and for revitalization to really take hold. We have made more progress over the last two years than we have in a very long time.”

More art installations are already in the works, and residents will see more of these installation soon, she said.

“We already have artists who have volunteered to lend there artwork,” Russ said. “We’re very excited about it. We are going to use some local artist.”