Stanly commissioners receive feedback on potential library sculpture removal

ALBEMARLE — While the Stanly County Board of Commissioners recently voted to remove an art sculpture from the public library main branch in Albemarle, there has been some pushback from local members of the arts community regarding the pending removal. 

Stanly County Arts Council executive director Renee VanHorn and Stanly Arts guild treasurer Kathy Almond spoke during the county commissioners meeting on February 6, each asking the board members to reconsider their decision on the concrete sculptures, which are located at the lower entrance to the library.  

Per multiple board members, there have been safety concerns that the location of the artwork has led to loitering, drug paraphernalia, and homeless people sleeping in the area. 

In order to move forward with the removal — projected to cost around $16,500 — the county will now have to acquire permission from the Albemarle Historic Resources Commission with a meeting set for March 14. If the commission does not agree to the county’s request, the decision could be appealed to the North Carolina Superior Court. 

“We are requesting that the Stanly County Commissioners slow down the process and explore all possibilities before destroying the public art at the Stanly County Library,” VanHorn said, adding that the removal of the art would not solve local societal problems such as homelessness or drug problems.  

The sculptures, originally built in the 1970s, have recently been painted and refurbished by volunteers. 

VanHorn continued: “If the intent is just to remove these issues from the library grounds, let’s have a conversation and explore ideas such as improved lighting — including the original lighting that Mr. Bierline had installed in the original sculptures — surveillance cameras and other ideas generated by brainstorming solutions with community partners.” 

She referenced artist George Bierline, who “wanted this sculpture to be an extension of the library activities.” 

Bierline’s works have been showcased at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, North Carolina Museum of Art, and Duke University Museum of Art, gaining the attention of the country’s leading art critics.  

Following VanHorn’s public statement, Almond touched on many of the same themes in her own address.  

“At a time when Stanly County is seeing unprecedented growth, prosperity, and an ever-changing landscape of opportunities, should we not work more diligently to preserve, protect and promote our resources and our assets than to demolish, destruct, and destroy them?” she asked. “Please consider further investigation prior to taking any action to remove this public art installation.” 

Commissioner Peter Asciutto thanked VanHorn and Almond for their input on the matter, adding that he would like the county to incorporate lights and security cameras around the artwork if it stays where it is now.  

Commissioner Patty Crump echoed Asciutto’s sentiments: “We definitely need to discuss better options, so thank you for bringing that to our attention. I will certainly slow down the process on my end. Not that it’s up to me, but as we go forward with this, it’s not going to be immediate. These are good things for us to consider.” 

The Stanly County Board of Commissioners will hold its next meeting on March 6 in the Gene McIntyre Room at Stanly Commons.