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Buncombe County Commissioners restart planning for public art project

The Buncombe County Courthouse on Oct. 26, 2016 . County commissioners have decided to restart planning for a public art project that was announced last week.(Photo credit: WLOS staff)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- Buncombe County Commissioners have decided to restart planning a recently announced public art project for the courthouse.

Chairman David Gantt said three times staff was told to include the African-American community and, thus far, nobody in that community had been consulted.

The commissioners decided they should pause before deciding a proposal for a history wall to go inside the courthouse.

RELATED | Buncombe Co. Commissioners seek input for courthouse artwork

For the first time, the commissioners budgeted money for a public art project. The county requested bids for a history wall and planned to spend $25,000 on it. They have another $50,000 budgeted for an outdoor sculpture at the courthouse.

Local fine artist Jason Rafferty submitted one of the bids for the history wall. He plans to collaborate with a few other local artists to create a mural that shows historical figures from Asheville's past, also construction workers, a Native American, and present cultural symbols.

"I've really come into my own as an artist here. It's a very special place to me. So, I saw this as an incredible opportunity to share that with the city," Rafferty said.

An Asheville Council member made a rare public comment inside the County Commissioners' chambers. Keith Young is the only elected African-American official in Asheville.

"I would just hope that this body would take heed and include some voices, some other voices in the conversation. I think the project is well intended, and I'm pretty sure it's going to be an awesome project," said Young.

Commissioners could have picked a bid Tuesday night. Because it was on the agenda, they had to take action. They unanimously rejected all the bids. David Gantt explained that they're not rejecting the artists.

"It's very important to include everybody's input to make sure there is a wholistic representation of the area's rich cultural history that everybody is contributing to," Rafferty said.

Rafferty is still interested and open to changes to his proposal.

After the election, the new commission will look at this project again.

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