Shepard Fairey Visits Rock Hill, SC, for Mural Installation and Public Art Exhibit
Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation (RHEDC), Catalyst Capital Partners, and the Women’s Art Initiative proudly hosted international artist, Shepard Fairey, in Rock Hill October 15 through October 19, 2021. Fairey painted a large-scale mural on a wall located at 153 E. White Street in downtown Rock Hill. In addition to the mural, 60 art pieces were chosen for public display and sale from October 17 through October 31.
The influential street artist has been a consistent presence in national and international art scenes since the 1990s. Fairey's work and practice has become widely known since his 2008 “Hope” portrait of then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, which now hangs at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. He is also known for his activist artwork and graphic design and is the founder of the OBEY clothing brand. https://obeygiant.com/
Fairey has strong ties to Rock Hill, with both sets of grandparents from Rock Hill. One grandfather served as the sixth President of Winthrop University, while his other grandfather was one of Rock Hill’s most prominent surgeons for nearly 40 years. He still has family members who reside in Rock Hill.
“I’m very excited to paint a mural and exhibit my art in Rock Hill because I grew up spending a lot of time with family in the city and surrounding countryside,” said Shepard Fairey. “My mural celebrates various aspects of Rock Hill’s industrial history while also sharing my philosophy of open-mindedness, creativity, and adaptive disruption to progress into the future. I look forward to a great dialogue with the people of Rock Hill,” Fairey said.
This project is a very important step in the further development of the “Mural Mile” in Rock Hill. The “Mural Mile” stresses the need to make art accessible, with murals on multiple buildings throughout the historic Old Town area. “We are so excited that an international artist of Shepard Fairey’s caliber has chosen to share his work with our Rock Hill community,” says Cathy Murphy, Downtown Development Manager for the City of Rock Hill. “This endeavor will truly bring attention and credence to our ‘Mural Mile’ project being completed over the next few years.”
The mural project is a public/private partnership among Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation (using the Barre Mitchell Community Initiatives Fund), Catalyst Capital Partners/URS Capital Partners and the Women’s Art Initiative.
The managing partner for the mural building’s ownership, A.J. Klenk (also the owner of Rock Hill’s Old Town Kitchen & Cocktails and NoDa’s The Goodyear House), told CharlotteFive last year: “Shepherd’s mural will continue the celebration of all that is great about Rock Hill — past, current and future.”
“It’s got some references to Rock Hill’s industrial history. It’s got a reference to the textile industry with a sewing machine and it says ‘Eyes Open, Mind Open, Sew Forth And Create (you know, ‘Go forth and create’). I like the idea of people sewing an ever-expanding tapestry, writing the future, building a mosaic. There’s some cool creative metaphors connected to sewing.”
“There’s a train and it says ‘Freedom Rides into the future’, which is a subtle nod to the history with the Freedom Riders but also just the idea of creating a better future.”
“There’s a portrait of a woman’s profile sort of looking into the distance meditatively. There’s a peace dove, there’s a floral pattern, there’s a subversive twist on the Coca-Cola logo (because of the Coca-Cola bottling plant there).”
“I love Andy Warhol, so the sort of pop art components that also deal with the history but there’s also some text that says ‘Rise Above.’ I think that a lot of our politics and social conversations have gotten really petty and I’d like people to think a little bit more about big picture, human dignity and things that we should be unified about,” Fairey said.