A new mural will be showing up in downtown Blacksburg in August.
The Blacksburg Regional Art Association (BRAA) has been awarded a grant from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Community Challenge program to create a public mural at the corner of Draper Road and College Avenue. The grant was pursued as a collaborative effort with the local AARP Blacksburg Chapter #2613.
Work will begin in August with panels prepared in a private studio. When finished, they will be attached to an outside brick wall of Gillie’s Restaurant on the Draper Road side.
BRAA’s public art chairperson Linda Correll collaborated with Leslie Pendleton, president of the local AARP Blacksburg chapter, to submit the grant. The stakeholders and those providing information and approval to bring this project to reality in the downtown location were The Lester Group (the building owner), The Public Arts Committee, and the Historic or Design Review board of the Town of Blacksburg.
AARP’s Community Challenge program is in its sixth year, and AARP is announcing the largest number of the grants to date, investing more than $3.4 million among 260 grantees across all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to an AARP release, the project will demonstrate changes and help build momentum to improve livability for residents of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities in Blacksburg and other awarded communities.
Correll said she believes Blacksburg’s project will add to the already vibrant public spaces to be found in the downtown area adjacent to the Virginia Tech campus and Draper Road. She said the mural is in a prominent location and coincides with upcoming streetscape plans for Draper Road and College Avenue. She said she hopes it will inspire an art alley concept in conjunction with the streetscape plans.
The BRAA outdoor mural entry was designed by BRAA member artist Nikki Pynn of Radford, well known for her public art contributions in the region. The as-yet unreleased design gives a nod to the location upon which it will be placed at the corner of Draper Road and College Avenue, the underground Strouble’s Creek that runs in the area, and the greenery and wildlife of the greater location.
Correll became involved with the project on short notice. “We had to act fast once the grant project was presented to us,” she said. “I conferred with several members of the executive board of the Blacksburg Regional Art Association, which liked the idea. Because of the fast-approaching deadline, we immediately reached out to our well-known local mural artist, Nikki Pynn, who said yes and came up with a design. Once The Lester Group provided us with a perfect location, we made the submission.”
Notification of selection for the grant was made to BRAA and the Town of Blacksburg in mid-May.
AARP publicly announced the 260 winners to share in the $3.4 million grant on June 29.
BRAA President Charlotte Chan said she and the association members are excited about this project. “The grant money will provide all the supplies needed and pay for the artist’s labor and design,” she said. “We are happy to have the art in such a public location and to support a local artist whose art already adorns an electrical box near the Blacksburg Farmers Market about two blocks away from the location of this new mural.
“The corner of Draper and College is a very busy car and pedestrian location with high visibility,” Chan said. “Our goal as a 70-year-old art association is to promote and encourage creativity in all levels of our town and beyond, and we believe this project will do just that. We thank the supportive folks in town and in the local AARP Blacksburg chapter for giving us the chance to take on this project.”