ECU professor John Kenney paints a portion of the wall during the Art+Community event Sept. 19. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)

ECU, partners unite community through art

Sept. 22, 2015

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

A colorfully painted cinderblock wall near campus helps illustrate an ongoing partnership between East Carolina University and its neighbors.

The initiative, called Art + Community, brings ECU and the surrounding neighborhood together through the creation and installation of art. On Sept. 19, an estimated 500 people turned out at 3rd and Jarvis streets in downtown Greenville for a block party that included painting the wall, live music and fellowship.

Video by Cliff Hollis
“Some people painted for 10 to 15 minutes and others for two to three hours,” said Kate Lamere, associate professor of art in the ECU School of Art and Design. “There was a sense of ownership."

ECU students and volunteers led by Associate Professor of Art and Director of Graduate Studies Scott Eagle spent several days outlining a whimsical underground scene on a retaining wall at the intersection, leaving lots of white space for block party guests to paint.

On Friday afternoon, Eagle and Tim French, ECU graduate and art instructor at Pitt Community College, and ECU students Zack Cleghorn, Ritvik Verma, Lupita Nava and Shayla Thornton worked to finish the outline.

French, who is known for painting gnomes, had painted two or three on the wall. “I tend to hole up in my studio so this was a chance to get outside and do something cool,” French said.
Associate Professor of Art and Director of Graduate Studies Scott Eagle applies paint to the mural.

Verma, a sophomore majoring in sports medicine, was out to gain extra credit for a class. “I’m not very good at art but I love watching how art is made,” Verma said. “I’m just going over the stray parts and outlining since I’m art challenged.”

Cleghorn, a junior majoring in industrial engineering technology, said he loves helping people and giving back to the community. The U.S. Marine veteran served seven years before a roadside bomb caused a brain injury that ended his military career. “So many people have put their hands on me and helped me along this path,” said Cleghorn, who is the first in his family to attend college. “I have an awesome peer support group at ECU.”

He is one of five ECU students picked as an inaugural Public Service Fellow, an outreach of the Art + Community initiative. The students will work 300 hours in local non-profit or not-for-profit agencies this semester and will conduct a research project for the community. The fellowships are made possible by a $100,000 grant from the State Employees Credit Union Foundation.
ECU student Shayla Thornton worked Sept. 18 to complete the outline of the mural.

Art + Community started more than two years ago when a Greenville Police Department officer walked into the Jenkins Fine Arts Center, Lamere said.

The officer, Niki Cates, was seeking artists to create work for the force’s Property Protection Initiative to reduce crime near campus based on the principles of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design.

The thought is that residents who meet one another and get involved in making art will monitor and protect it, creating a sense of ownership and leading to a decrease in crime in the neighborhood.

ECU’s Misun Hur, assistant professor of planning, had already formed a research team that was primed to work with Cates. Faculty in art and design, geography, planning and the environment and ECU Off Campus Student Services joined efforts with the police department, Tar River University Neighborhood Association, Pitt County Arts Council at Emerge, University Neighborhood Association and Christy’s Euro Pub to form Art + Community.

Children in the Youth Public Arts Project at Emerge will finish painting the walls this fall.

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Pictured below, members of the community came out to join in the painting Sept. 19.