‘A mammoth of a mural’

Contributed photo Jalen Joy works on one of the panels of the large and colorful mural that will be permanently placed in a prominent part of downtown Rockingham in the fall.

Contributed photo Samy Tullock and Kenedeigh Goins arrive to find RCC art instructor Jason Lancaster touching up parts of the mural. Lancaster said Tullock and Goins have worked with great dedication since the project began.

Contributed photo Curt Kindley applies his skills to the thin metal canvas of the RCC/Arts Richmond mural that will be dedicated after the beginning of the 2015-16 school year.

ROCKINGHAM — The downtown area will be a lot more colorful this fall when a mural designed by students of Richmond Community College with support from Arts Richmond goes up.

The theme of the artwork highlights the natural beauty of the entire county and draws attention to its scenic outdoor tourist attractions and recreational sites.

Jason Lancaster, a Mount Olive native and Richmond Community College’s art instructor, said Rockingham and Mount Olive are alike in many ways — they are both rural areas where children who choose to remain in their hometown after high school either go into industrial or agricultural careers or keep up the family business. Very few pursue careers in fine arts.

“I had never really considered a career in art as a legitimate option until I got to college,” Lancaster said. “It was only after seeing the art teachers at work that I realized that could happen. To even consider anything that’s not farming or industrial, it was unheard of. I want more young people to see that, get more of them involved in the arts.”

Lancaster earned his bachelor of fine arts degree at the University of Mount Olive and his master’s of arts from Radford University in Virginia.

RCC President Dr. Dale McInnis said having Lancaster on board is an asset to the school’s mission to prepare some of its students for four-year degrees.

“Jason is our first full-time, dedicated art instructor,” McInnis said. “If we’re going to have a college transfer program, we need to have a strong arts component.”

Lancaster’s drawing class and RCC are wrapping up the project in conjunction with the Richmond County Arts Council. It’s a mammoth of a mural, and arts council volunteer Laura Daskal has equally big plans for its ultimate destination.

“The final site is to be determined,” Daskal said. “But we are going to take it to the arts council and keep it there for the summer. We’re still working things out with tourism to see whether it will be there over the summer part of the time, but once we know for certain where it’s going to be placed, we are planning a dedication ceremony. All of the students who worked on the mural will be there, and Jason and the arts council members.”

Daskal said moving the large panels would not be difficult since they’re made of thin metal. Lancaster plans to separate each finished and buffed panel with layers of cloth when they are moved to Arts Richmond’s downtown building where they will replace the current Richmond County Schools student art exhibit at the end of the school year.

“Every class I have, I like to have a large community-based project at the end of it,” Lancaster said. “It was actually Dr. McInnis who put me in touch with the arts council.”

The students who worked on this project are Abi Alcocer, Megan Covington, Chris Farrell, Kenedeigh Goins, Ciara Golden, Sandra Greer, Jalen Joy, Curt Kindley, Zoe Lawrence, Nichole McPherson, Cameron Pressley, Samala Taylor, Samy Tullock and Michael Whitley.

Arts Richmond also provided funding and sponsorship through a Grassroots Grant program of the North Carolina Arts Council. The N.C. Arts Council is a division of the state Department of Cultural Resources that receives funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

“We’re planning more of these projects over the coming months,” Daskal said. “For this one we went to the city of Rockingham, met with the city planner to talk about it. We’re looking forward to working with officials to bring more projects like this to life.”

Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.