Artists work on 'cutting edge' design for Black Mountain Center for the Arts mural

Shelly Frome
Special to Black Mountain News
Jeremy Russell, left, and Scott Allred, or Brushcan Murals, work on 30-foot by 50-foot mural that will go up on the exterior wall of the Black Mountain Center for the Arts at the end of October.

Needless to say, deciding on placing a mural on the exterior wall of the Black Mountain Center for the Arts isn’t simply a matter of having it made to order. You can’t just put out a call for something appropriate that measures 30 feet by 50 feet. At the outset, you have to have a company in mind with a proven track record of innovative work on a large scale, able to tailor a project to this particular venue.       

Enter Scott Allred, his partner Jeremy Russell and their Brushcan Murals, who are so successful they’ve been doing back-to-back ventures for the past five years. As it happens, they were approached a year ago by the center's then-director Gale Jackson and patron and artist Libba Tracy to explore possibilities, logistics and a feasible timeline.  

Aside from testimonials and a brochure depicting the range of their custom designs on a variety of enterprises throughout this region, their backgrounds alone more than qualify the pair for this undertaking.

Allred, the lead designer, majored in graphic design at the Art Academy of Cincinnati, was attracted to the compositional elements associated with the commercial world, and initially found employment at theme parks working on oversized backdrops and the like. Russell, on the other hand, has a background in fine arts and was drawn to small paintings.

In tandem, they realized that large scale brush work, business enterprises and making a living all went hand in hand.  

“There’s also an underlying excitement about doing big public art,” Allred said. “A lot more people are going to see a display on the side of a building. In terms of marketing, the more people see it, take pictures and put it on Facebook, the more it comes back to us.”

Moreover, this duo never fails to offer viewers an engaging experience. Take the immense mural on the side of Hunter Banks Fly Fishing Outfitters in Asheville for example.

“Putting anything that’s small on a large scale is really cool,” Russell said. “In this case, onlookers are on the scale of prey for this humongous fish looking down on them as they lie in wait on the bottom of a creek.”

As for the experience in store for viewers of the Black Mountain mural, the first consideration was to indicate the wall was an integral part of the Center of the Arts and its activities. In addition, the rendering also had to reflect the cozy nature of this mountain town along with all ages and ethnicities. Moreover, board members wanted to push the envelope beyond the rendering of a traditional landscape painting bordered by a gold frame.  

“They wanted it to be slightly cutting edge, but they didn’t want Asheville," Allred said. "They also wanted to see through the wall inside the building.”

“The Work Projects Administration program of the 1930s then came into play, and the masterly large scale compositions of Thomas Hart Benton that engaged the viewers as it kept flowing back into itself," Russell said. "At the same time, he embraced the folks of each particular town in question and the work they did. Putting it on a pedestal and saying working hard is something to honor. In the same way, our people in this mural are concentrating on the arts they’re doing.”

The mural created by Jeremy Russell and Scott Allred for the Black Mountain Center for the Arts, which will go up at the end of October, borrows inspiration from the work of muralist Thomas Hart Benton.

By extension, you can also find an element of mystery. Given Benton’s flair for the dramatic and exaggeration and Russell’s love of abstract painting, the BMCA mural design features one elongated figure who is larger than the others.

All the lines seem to lead into him and, at the same time, he seems to be captivated by something far beyond the horizon. Then again, the lines carry you back into the regular people creating, taking classes and observers in the galleries leading to a never-ending search and dynamic.

All told, everyone who comes upon this mural brings with them his or her own sensibility and causes the story to widen or deepen. Artists may nod, neophytes may gaze in wonder, passersby may stop in their tracks and drivers may pull in, walk back and linger.

Hopefully, all may return now and then to see how their vantage point may have changed.

The mural is scheduled to be finally applied at the end of October. Prepare to be astonished.