ROCKINGHAM — A new mural meant to bridge the age gap was unveiled Tuesday in the lobby of Richmond County Department of Social Services.
The curtain dropped revealing a massive painting by the young and old featuring one of Rockingham’s most recognizable landmarks: Hitchcock Creek.
Social Services Director Robby Hall said the project took about a month to complete and the dedication was originally scheduled when Hurricane Florence hit late last year.
The mural was part of the Generations Art Project, sponsored by social services, Richmond County Aging Services, Arts Richmond and the N.C. Arts Council, with the latter organization providing most of the funding.
Hall said the goal of the project is to address the connections between seniors, youth and the entire community.
Leading the mural project was Tunde Afolayan, a Nigeria-born artist who is working with the N.C. Arts Council.
Afolayan, who was unable to attend as he’s working on another residency project, has taught art both in his native country and the U.S., having moved to the states more than 30 years ago. This is his third community art project.
He on a said on a video the project was an “opportunity for youth to tap into the wisdom of the elders.”
The painting features three figures canoeing and kayaking down Hitchcock Creek with one of the footbridges spanning across in the background.
The younger artists “hid” several items throughout the mural including a camera and a white squirrel (like those seen in the area). One of the kayaking figures is also wearing a Raiders helmet.
The bottom third of the mural has silhouettes of Afolayan, two older people and four youngsters “sharing” a book with a message spelled out in several pages:
“In youth we learn.”
“Together we build our community.”
Chad Mayfield, one of the youth artists, stepped up to commemorate the late Ann Moore, wife of retired art teacher John Moore, who helped with the project, and explain some of the representations on the mural.
“One of the ideas we really wanted to express … was us not forgetting about the elders,” he said.
Mayfield then pointed out several of the modern electronic devices on the mural (USB drive, MP3 player, tablet computer, cellphone and a handheld gaming system) and said the message was to “put the gadgets down … learn something from each other.”
Others involved with the mural were: Colton Mayfield, Danaysia Ingram, Tanaysia Ingram, Latreyl Johnson, Hannah Smith, Angel Taylor, Deshon Watson, Mary Ann Deese, JoAnn Thompson, Kathy Avant, Bunny Critcher, Lynn King, Myra Singletary, Theressa Smith, Karen Steen, Andrea McIver and Laura Daskal.
But the mural wasn’t the only part of the project.
Several paintings by county seniors and youth now adorn what’s been dubbed “Generations Hall,” transforming what Hall called a “barren wasteland” into a miniature local art gallery.
Those painting projects will continue through the summer with second mural planned for next year.