- Tuesday, 19 March 2019
- Written by EARL VAUGHAN JR.
Sculptures created by students at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke that have been on public display in Hope Mills for about a year are disappearing from the landscape because of a breakdown in communication between town officials and UNC-Pembroke instructors.
Adam Walls, associate professor of art at UNCPembroke, is a Hope Mills resident. About a year ago, he worked out a plan with Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner for students to create sculptures that would be put on display around the town of Hope Mills.
The plan was for the town to get new works of art to show on an annual basis, with the only cost to the town being money to purchase the supplies the students needed to create the art. But when Walls tried to communicate with the town this year about renewing the agreement, his attempts were unsuccessful.
“They never would return my phone calls or my emails about how we were going to go about funding the new pieces,’’ he said.
Last year, Walls wrote a grant for the town that secured the money to construct the concrete pads on which the sculptures were displayed. This year he said he was prepared to write a similar grant to get money for the materials to build the sculptures. That cost the town about $3,000 last year.
While there was an apparent breakdown in communication, possibly caused by the fact officials with the town’s Parks and Recreation Department were displaced and without phones for a good part of the year as a result of damage to the recreation center, Walls said he heard there may have been another reason for the difficulty.
“My understanding is the board (of commissioners) was not always in favor of what the previous board might have okayed,’’ Walls said. “Because somebody else has previously agreed to it, they were probably going to shoot it down.’’
Walls is in the process of retrieving the sculptures and returning them to their creators. He said this year’s class of students, several of them from Hope Mills, is disappointed at losing a chance for public display of their works.
“My students from Hope Mills are really brokenhearted they don’t get to show anything in their hometown,’’ Walls said. “But there was just no funding available to us. I wanted to help write the grant to make this happen, but they weren’t forthcoming.’’
Walls said public display of a young artist’s work is an important step in his or her career.
“It helps them start thinking of their work as professional,’’ he said. “When you put it in a public realm like that, you are going to have thousands of people seeing your work. They may not all be art enthusiasts, but just imagine. They are going to recognize there is a value in what they’re doing.
“Not having this exhibition opportunity kind of takes some of the value away from the students, especially the students who are from that area.’’
Even if the town does change its mind and would like to have art return, Walls said because of his personal schedule it would be at least a year from now before new sculptures could be created to replace the ones the town is losing. “We hope it will happen in the future,’’ he said.
Warner said she was personally disappointed the town wasn’t able to continue displaying the sculptures. She had first seen the work of UNC-Pembroke students at a similar display in Laurinburg and thought it would work in Hope Mills as well.
“I think it added to (Municipal Park),’’ Warner said. “I can’t tell you how many people have taken pictures with them (the sculptures).’’
Walls also said whenever he went to the park with his children this past year, he heard numerous positive comments from others there about the sculptures.
Warner is hopeful that the town can work with Walls to bring the art back in 2020.
“As a town, we dropped the ball,’’ she said. “Had I known it had gone so far, I would have made the effort myself.’’
- Tuesday, 12 March 2019
- Written by EARL VAUGHAN JR.
Gregory Dickerson spent 21 years in the United States Air Force learning about firefighting and fire inspection. Now, he’s bringing some of that knowledge to Hope Mills as local volunteer.
Dickerson was recently honored by the town as its Volunteer of the Month for a variety of activities, including work with the Hope Mills Community Emergency Rescue Team, serving meals at Hope House, working with neighborhood community watch groups and helping out at the local nursing home.
Hope Mills Mayor Jackie Warner praised the work of Dickerson and volunteers like him, saying they provide countless hours of work in the community on a regular basis.
“We are so fortunate to have volunteers that donate their time and expertise,’’ Warner said. “Recognizing the Volunteer of the Month is our way of thanking them publicly. Our volunteers share their Hope Mills pride in the work they do.’’
Dickerson feels the most important thing he brought with him from his years in the Air Force was the ability to help people in need, whether they were involved in a vehicle accident or a house fire. “You’re helping people get better or try to limit the damage if they do have a fire,’’ he said.
With both a background in firefighting and a degree in emergency management, Dickerson has used his military experience to lead basic training classes for the Hope Mills community emergency response team. He provides expertise in disaster preparedness, firefighting and rescue techniques.
“It was my way of taking the knowledge I have received over the last 30 years and putting it to use in a small community,’’ Dickerson said. “Every little bit volunteers can do alleviates the town from having to pay extra money, whether it’s having police officers to work overtime or things like traffic control at Hope Mills Lake.’’
At last year’s lake celebrations, Dickerson and other volunteers worked with a Hope Mills police officer to provide traffic control. The volunteers saved the town the extra cost of putting additional police officers to work. “That’s one of the ways we can give back,’’ Dickerson said.
Another benefit of volunteer work, Dickerson said, is the volunteer can set his or her own pace and doesn’t have to cope with the stress that can come from having to show up daily for the same job. “The stress level is very minimal as a volunteer,’’ he said. “I don’t have to do it today if I don’t feel like it, but if there’s a need, I do it.’’
Another area where Dickerson’s expertise is valuable is in his work with the Red Cross to inspect and install smoke alarms in private homes.
“We work hand-in-hand with the Red Cross in Hope Mills,’’ he said.
A major push is coming in the months ahead to install smoke alarms in neighborhoods that show a history of fire risk. May 4, Dickerson and other volunteers working with the Red Cross will install some 1,000 alarms in Lafayette Village off Hope Mills Road.
Fire prevention and safety aren’t Dickerson’s only volunteer activities. As a lifetime member of the local chapter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Dickerson regularly spends time at local nursing homes.
“One day I may be in that nursing home,’’ Dickerson said. “I want someone to come and see me. I don’t want to be left alone.’’
He sees the nursing home visits, as well as working with neighborhood watch groups and serving meals at Hope House, as different ways of giving back to the community.
He views the watch groups as a way to stop trouble before it gets a chance to start. “We try to help each other out and be good neighbors,’’ he said.
Dickerson estimates he volunteered about 303 hours total last year. He’d like to get some younger people involved in the volunteer program in Hope Mills.
“It helps you through your high school days, maybe even (in) getting scholarships for college,’’ he said.
He’d like to see the volunteer program in Hope Mills grow and resemble one in Plymouth, a small town in the northeastern part of the state that he visited recently for the annual North Carolina Community Emergency Response Team Conference.
Dickerson said Plymouth has about 4,000 citizens and they seem to almost work as a unit when it comes to volunteering. “When they need something, they work together,’’ he said. “You see a sense of achievement. It was made better by the amount of people that put effort into it.’’
Dickerson has found a simple goal in volunteering that works for him and that he suggests others try. “Enjoy what you’re doing, whether you’re paid or unpaid,’’ he said. “Try to get satisfied doing it.’’
Photo: Gregory Dickerson estimates he volunteered about 303 hours total last year.