East Carolina University senior art education major Helen Lewis, has finished the mural “Bubbles” on the Fourth Street parking deck for a class project on Feb 6 with the help of the Pitt County Arts Council (PCAC) at Emerge.
Lewis said the mural, which features bubbles moving across the three panels facing Cotanche Street, started as a project in her digital painting class taught by Beth Blake, an East Carolina University associate professor of painting, drawing and first year classes of the School of Art and Design, last spring, Lewis said.
“I initially just started thinking about what would look good in a public space," Lewis said. "Something that’s bright and colorful that people of all ages, ethnicities, backgrounds, whatever could relate to and enjoy, and enjoy driving by and viewing. For whatever reason, I immediately thought of bubbles."
For the project, the class came up with designs for a mural, which were sent to the PCAC. The class would have then worked on the mural together last spring if not for COVID-19. In summer 2020, PCAC Executive Director Holly Garriot let Lewis know her design had been chosen and the mural would continue as a solo project. Lewis said the project received approval from the Greenville City Council in November 2020, and she began painting in December 2020.
Lewis said her internship at a local elementary school and the cold weather made progress slow. She said temperatures below 40 degrees interfere with the paint’s consistency and make it difficult to work. Lewis said she plans to keep up with her personal artwork even after becoming a full-time art teacher. She said she’d love to do more murals in the future since she has gained some experience with her work on “Bubbles.”
“I would love to do murals because I believe that they, and art in general, have the potential to really brighten up and positively change a wide variety of spaces,” Lewis said.
Senior art education major Kinsley Rhodes said she met Lewis at The Painted Peacock, a paint your own pottery and creative studio in Greenville, North Carolina, and through the ECU art education department. Rhodes said she offered to help Lewis paint the mural after she heard Lewis would work on the project.
Rhodes said she spent a couple days on the mural with Lewis where she offered to carry supplies, help paint and give her opinion when needed. Rhodes said she is grateful to have helped work on the project.
“While working on the mural, I was so surprised about how much local support we had. Almost every car slowed down to admire the work or to give us a few words of encouragement and show their appreciation,” Rhodes said. “I learned how much time and effort goes into large works such as this one but also how appreciated it is. Seeing the smiling faces and large eyes look at what we had painted so far gave me a sense of gratification.”
Paula Rountree, programs director of Emerge Gallery & Art Center said in an email statement it has been a pleasure working on the project. Rountree said her role is to oversee completion of the project, and to facilitate any needs Lewis may have.
Rountree said there was always an intention to have the panels on the Fourth Street deck painted as a mural. The idea that it would be a student project, she said, “just worked out.”
“Working with student artists and professional artists is one of the same in my mind. Both individuals (are) very busy and excited to create an amazing piece of art for our community. A lot of time and commitments go into creating a mural and as artists they want to put their best out in the community,” Paula Rountree said.