ICONIC ROANOKE MURAL GETS REFRESH
Great news! Back when we launched our very first Artemis Journal in 1977, Dorothy Gillespie donated a pastel for our cover. Lyn Yeatts and I then approached Roanoke Business leaders and the Roanoke Arts Council about creating a downtown mural in Roanoke. The wind caught the sails of our idea and the mural became Roanoke’s very first one in the city. Our legacy lives and Artemis Journal continues to create and support the arts. We are now in the final layout for our Artemis Journal 2023 which promises to be one of our very best, with 96 poets and 50 artists from our region, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and beyond. The official launch will be on September 1st at the Roanoke Taubman Museum of Art.
Jeri Rogers, Editor, and Founder Artemis Journal
Gillespie Mural dedication, Doug Jackson, Roanoke Arts Commission Director, Pedro Salzay, Director of Southwest Virginia Ballet, William Penn, Chairman of RAC, Susan Jennings, Former Director of RAC, Katherine Devine, Artist, Jeri Rogers, Editor Artemis Journal
Roanoke, Va.- (April 24, 2023) – This week, fresh coats of paint are being applied to
“Accentuated Forms in Space,” the well-loved but much-faded work of public art on the side wall of downtown Roanoke’s 312 2nd Street, SW.
Painted in 1979 from a 1975 design done in pastel by renowned artist Dorothy Gillespie, the work has been called “fluid and playful.” The late Cabell Brand, President of Total Action for Progress (TAP), stated about the design, “Its colors harmonize just like people in a community should harmonize. It shows what beauty can be when everyone works together.” The mural was the result of a collaboration between the artist and the region’s arts community to celebrate the Artemis Festival of Women in the Arts. Partners included Artemis Journal- which featured the work on its first cover–philanthropists Warner and Carol Dalhouse, and Ann Lee, who then owned the property.
For more than two decades, area residents and art lovers have called for a revival of the work, something that just recently became possible. “We were able to bring together good partners eager to make this work,” says Roanoke Arts Commission Chair Meighan Sharp. “Sometimes it just takes time for the stars — like Gillespie’s “Accentuated Forms in Space”— to align, and this year it came together quickly.”
2023 marks the 40th anniversary of the Roanoke Arts Commission, and the volunteer, 15-member body appointed by City Council voted in March to undertake the project in celebration of ‘forty years of progress, fun, and art.’ Sharp continues, “In many ways, you can see Dorothy Gillespie’s gift to the city in the late Seventies as seeding the strong public and community art program we have today, and appropriately in the Year of the Artist, we’re celebrating this Roanoke daughter and art legend.”
2020 was the centennial of the artist’s birth in Roanoke, and her son, Gary Israel, through the Dorothy M. Gillespie Foundation, has worked in communities across the county to showcase the joyful painting, sculpture, and activism to which the artist dedicated her life.
“This mural is significant,” says Israel. “It is one of only two murals of my mother’s work produced in her lifetime, and it’s the only one that remains. It’s wonderful that it’s here in the community so beloved to her.”
The City of Roanoke has piloted a public-private partnership strategy that allows public funds to support public-facing art on private property. “It’s been allowed by our public art policies and plan for a while now,” says Sharp, “but until we developed the “Art in Place” program, we didn’t have the tools to encourage and shape these projects.”
For the refurbishment of the mural, committed partners have collaborated and contributed financial resources. Those include Downtown Roanoke, Inc. (DRI), property owner Quintessence Properties, led by Peter “Reyn” Holden, and the Dorothy M. Gillespie Foundation.
Artemis Journal 1977 cover by Dorothy Gillespie