CLAYTON -- The town will delay naming its portion of the Mountains to Sea Trail until a public art project for the greenway is finalized.
Having announced in August that they would be taking naming suggestions from the public, the council decided last Monday to wait to name the trail in case a new public art project lends itself to a naming theme.
The Mountains to Sea Trail has been a project in the making for years. As towns along its path buy up open space and dedicate a portion of it to the trail, they get the honor of naming a section.
At its September meeting, the public art advisory board invited artist Georges Le Chevallier to walk the trail with them and conceptualize some ideas for an art project. The public art advisory board received $30,000 in the town budget to do two public art projects.
Now Le Chevallier is sketching ideas for 10 gates that will adorn the five miles of the trail. Once he turns his ideas over to the public art advisory board, the council will review them and decide what to name the trail.
The council independently ranked the trail names submitted to town clerk Sherry Scoggins, but everyone came up with a different favorite. Scoggins wouldn’t release which trail names ranked highest since the town will still consider those names for its final decision.
“We didn’t have a clear-cut name, and that’s why we decided to wait for the public art piece,” said Mayor Jody McLeod, who is also a member of the public art advisory board.
At their October 16 meeting, Le Chevallier will present his conceptual sketches. If the board likes them, they’ll present the project to the town council for approval.
Le Chevallier said he was called on to think of a public art piece for the trail one day before he left on a trip to east Africa, so he was thinking about the project and getting ideas during his trip. On a visit to Stone Town in Zanzibar, he was struck by the carved wooden doors that adorned many of the town’s homes and buildings.
The ornately-carved doors influenced his thought process about the trail, and Le Chevallier began sketching gate-like installations that would be made of wood, cut into different shapes and painted. He imagines the gates to be roughly 14 feet high and 12 feet wide.
“The whole idea is a trail; it takes you from one place to another,” Le Chevallier said. “When you go through a gate or a door, you’re really paying attention that you’re going from one place to another – it’s a transformation in a sense,” he said.
The gates would be installed every half mile, serving as distance markers for folks using the trail. Instead of building a sculpture alongside the trail, Le Chevallier says the gates will become a part of the trail.
“I wanted to create something that would enhance the trail, and I wanted to create something that would not bother the landscape. I want it to be part of the whole experience,” Le Chevallier said.
At present, he’s thinking that the gates would be internationally-themed, with one being representative of the Taj Mahal and another like the Japanese Torii Gate.
“I want to bring internationalism to Clayton. I want it to be inspired by them, but I don’t want to be copying them,” Le Chevallier said.
The gates would be semi-permanent, adorning the trail for many years to come.
“For me, this is one of the most important projects I’ve been part of, as far as public art is concerned,” Le Chevallier said. “I won’t say most challenging, it’s the most broad. This is the one I’ve been most excited about.”