Dozens of brightly painted, intricate butterflies rest quietly on a fence along Sam’s Branch Greenway, about a mile from the parking lot at 1358 N. O’Neil St.
They are about to fly away. Birds are going to take their place.
Last June, the Town of Clayton and its Public Art Advisory Board dedicated the “Butterfly Garden” along the greenway. Created by Garner artist Georges Le Chevallier, the installation includes a permanent display of two butterfly benches made of metal, butterfly-shaped bike racks and a stainless-steel butterfly totem pole.
Under the supervision of Chevallier and Clayton High School art teacher Jane Roberts, Clayton High School and Clayton Elementary School students designed and painted more than 40 wooden butterflies. But after a tough winter, they are deteriorating. More important, the board wanted them gone to make room for new art.
“That was always the thought, that they wouldn’t be permanent things but a rotating artwork display by local students,” said Stacy Beard, Clayton’s public information officer.
Last Tuesday, the Public Art Advisory Board agreed on a new theme: birds. Other options included fanciful swirls, rectangles and sunflowers, but the board liked birds best of all.
Larry Bailey, director of the Clayton Parks and Recreation Department, said the department has designated that spot on the greenway as a “public art space.”
“It’s kind of a good stop there,” Bailey said. “It’s about a mile into the trail. If you’re coming from the opposite direction, it’s a good place to take a break.”
The Public Art Advisory Board, he said, ruled out other things like frogs and dragonflies in favor of last year’s butterfly theme. The display will change each year to “keep it fresh, keep it changing and get the students involved,” Bailey said.
But the theme will likely always have something to do with nature, he said. “With that being a natural environment, they wanted to keep it to things you would see along the way,” Bailey said.
Students from Clayton High School, Clayton Middle School, Cooper Elementary School and Powhatan Elementary School will design and paint birds on plywood provided by the Clayton Parks and Recreation Department. The schools will provide the paint and brushes.
Roberts and Chavellier will work with students as they create their designs, and Chavellier will install the birds when they are complete. Deputy Town Manager Nancy Medlin will order the needed supplies and supervise their delivery to the schools.
Project manager Roberts will try to make sure the pieces are finished by April 30.
The aging butterflies will meet some end, but no one knows for sure which end. At the meeting on Tuesday, the board discussed everything from displaying them in the Clayton Community Center to auctioning them off but “decided they would decide that at the next meeting,” Bailey said.
The Public Art Advisory Board will meet at 5 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, in the Four Oaks Room at the Clayton Center, 111 E. Second St.