2017-04-21 / Arts & Entertainment

One Columbia and Columbia Bethlehem Community Center partner on mural

Contributed by One Columbia

One Columbia for Arts and History and the Columbia Bethlehem Community Center have partnered to complete a mural to enhance the exterior appearance of the center, located in the North Columbia area on McRae Street.

The visually-striking mural represents the effort of the Community Center to assist children and families in the Midlands by meeting their educational, cultural, and spiritual needs while encouraging them to use their own talents to make a positive difference in their communities.

The center offers programs including an after-school, a youth literacy initiative, a community food share, various camps, GED classes, and activities for seniors.

The mural both enhances the physical space of the building while enriching the lives of the community through the power of art.

“We are overjoyed to partner with One Columbia for this initiative.” says Kara Simmons, executive director of the Columbia Bethlehem Community Center. “Over the years we have always embraced the arts. We saw this as a prolific and perfect opportunity to enhance our exterior while embracing a form of art through message and ministry. “

“The overall theme was based on the center’s outreach efforts,” says artist John Hairston. “The mural depicts the women who lead the community center and represents how they reach out to those in need, particularly children.”

Artist John Hairston Jr. is a North Carolina native who tapped into his love of comics and Hip Hop to create a style of artwork that often blends satire, social commentary, and obscure pop-culture references.

Hairston graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a bachelor of fine arts in illustration and began his career as a professional artist illustrating storyboards for a string of independent films and several television ads.

He has completed commissioned pieces for numerous art collectors and various non-profit organizations.

Hairston’s work is currently on display in various art galleries all over the East Coast and Charlotte, N. C. He has previously participated in ArtLinc, the annual chalk art festival in the Lincoln Street Tunnel, and has collaborated with Izms of Art.

This mural process has also served as a pilot project for a program to be further developed by One Columbia. Designed to pair emerging artists with professional muralists, the program currently titled the Community Mural Squad, will allow for the creation of more murals in neighborhoods across the city while offering training and mural opportunities to a new cohort of young artists. In this case, John Hairston worked with Ariel Flowers, a senior at Richland Northeast High School.

“With the expansion of public art in Columbia, we’re focused on making sure our impact spreads to all areas of the city.” As One Columbia Executive Director Lee Snelgrove explains “We expect that the Community Mural Squad initiative will develop a group of experienced emerging artists who can communicate to different communities and respond with murals that reinforce neighborhood identity and strengthen community pride.

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