CLAYTON -- CLAYTON If all goes to plan, the five miles of the Mountains to Sea Trail could soon be decorated with 10 original gateways as part of a public art project.
At a public art advisory board meeting last week, Garner-based artist Georges Le Chevallier presented sketches of his designs for what he calls “The Gates of Clayton.”
From a rendition of the Arc de Triomphe of Paris to a depiction of the N.C. State Fairgrounds entrance, Le Chevallier sketched 10 designs for 10 gates that would go up every half mile along the trail.
His goal, he said, was to do something internationally minded to put Clayton on the map with its portion of the statewide trail.
“I am trying to take the spirit of this architecture. I don’t want to imitate it, I want it to be inspired by it,” Le Chevallier told the board.
The board will review the sketches over the next month and discuss them again in November. If they make a decision to go forward with the project in one form or another, they’ll bring it to the town council for review.
If the board approves the proposal, it would account for $15,000 afforded to the public art advisory board for public art projects in the town’s budget. Another $15,000 has been allocated for another project.
Le Chevallier’s plan is to work with high school students on the gates, so the designs aren’t final. Each gate will have the same wooden skeleton that will stand 12 feet hight and roughly 16 feet wide. The designs will be carved and painted boards added to the skeleton, so Le Chevallier will be able to bring them to the high school for art students to work on.
For the first gate, Le Chevallier will leave the design up to the high schoolers. On the other side of the gate, elementary school students will get a chance to paint their own design.
Throughout the project, students will get a chance to practice shadowing and wood carving. One of the gates, modeled after a wood-carved door in Stone Town, Zanzibar, will be intricately carved.’
As Le Chevallier went through each sketch, he went into detail about the inspiration for it, including the origin of the design, the year it was built, why it was built and by whom. Public Information Officer Stacy Beard, who sat in on the meeting, said it would be great to include plaques alongside each gate explaining the design’s origins.
“I like that this is educational and high-interest,” said Mayor Jody McLeod.
Parks and Recreation Director Larry Bailey also sat in on the meeting. He brought a logistical perspective to the table, saying that the town would have to investigate whether or not maintenance vehicles and police patrols on their all-terrain vehicle could navigate through the gates.
“The concept of this and whether it will work in this physical space we’ll have to look at,” Bailey said. “Even if it won’t work in this location, we do have another location we could put it.”
Bailey suggested installing the gates on the one-mile walking trail at East Clayton Community Park. He said that trail has more open space to accommodate large structures.
The main difference between the two locations would be how the gates interact with each other. On the Mountains to Sea Trail, walking the trail would involve the discovery of each gate, as each one couldn’t be seen from the next. At East Clayton Community Park, a number of gates would be visible at once.
Le Chevallier tried to sell his design, arguing that the Gates of Clayton would be truly one of a kind.
“I’ve seen a lot of public art, and I’ve not seen anything like this,” Le Chevallier said. “Something like this could really bring attention to Clayton.”