Crowd-funding campaign aims to keep Asheville artists out of debt on new public mural

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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daydreamer_gofundme_2014A crowd-funding campaign has been set up to help pay two Asheville artists, whose new public mural project exceeded the amount their were awarded for the “Daydreamer” mural on the side of Aloft Hotel in downtown.

Earlier this year, ceramicist Alex Irvine and painter Ian Wilkinson won the city project, as well as $25,000 in taxpayer money to complete it. The mural was recently unveiled during a special ceremony.

But the artists ran into a couple of major stumbling blocks. First, the city of Asheville cut the power to a number of structures in the River Arts District citing safety concerns, including The Tannery studio that Irvine and Wilkinson were renting to finish their project. The two toiled in the summer heat as they sped to get the mural ready for installation.

Second, the piece required special engineering and other costs to be sure it wouldn’t fall off the side of the building on which it was installed. Kyle Sherard at the Mountain Xpress reported the issue:

Irvine and Wilkinson enlisted Robert Steffen, a professor of engineering at Western Carolina University, to help with reinforcing the walls. The task required threading rebar anchors and stainless steel wiring into the existing wall. This was in addition to an industrial strength epoxy used to adhere the tiles to the wall. The epoxy was strong enough by itself, but the wall required the additional reinforcement for safety compliance.

Now a gofundme campaign has been set up to raise money for Daydreamer and Irvine and Wilkinson. It appears to me that supporters of the artists have set up this fundraising campaign, although I haven’t confirmed that. So far, more than $1,300 of the $5,000 goal has been raised to be the sure the artists don’t go into debt on their work. From the campaign:

Asheville is a city people flock to because of its vibrant art scene. Let’s not forget the individual artists who create this culture we value so much. Help us to raise $5000 to make up for the costs Alex and Ian incurred. Let’s all do what we can, and make a statement by our giving. Let’s feed our artists, and thank them for making our city more beautiful by what they have made.

In the event we raise any additional money past the goal, it will go directly to the artists to let them know how much we appreciate their hard work.

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. tony November 23, 2014

    The mural is on the side of the ALOFT hotel. The hotel makes good money from Asheville, but contributes little to the community. Why doesn’t the ALOFT contribute the $5,000? They’d barely notice it missing from their monthly profits.

  2. Alex Irvine November 20, 2014

    Thank you Ashvegas for spreading the word about the fundraiser. I appreciate all the positive and salty comments. Different strokes for different folks I suppose. It’s a lot easier to hate than to actually do anything, especially for the community and the public, but I’ll stop there.

    As far as budgeting, it is really expensive to put up a mural, especially one that is sculptural. Our engineer worked over 30 hrs pro bono for us in exchange for a mosaic I am working on with his kids. That guy went to college for 13 years to do his job! he’s got a doctorate and his fee would have been hefty, but we dodged that bullet. The scaffolding alone should have cost $6000 but we took it down ourselves and found some other ways to reduce that number to more like $4000. When doing work for the city downtown you have to use scaffolding that is OSHA approved with a pedestrian tunnel, guardrails, toebaords, etc. and it ain’t cheap. Once the engineer was involved it became clear that some reinforcement of the wall was necessary and that cost an additional $2000 in stainless steel and epoxy that wasn’t in the budget. You can’t even see that stuff buried behind the tile, but it’s there. if you go inside the parking garage you can see where some of those bolts go through the wall. Material costs are high. We use the best stuff so it will last generations and be safe for the public to walk and drive underneath. We knew this job would be tight financially and did it anyway for the love of our jobs and of Asheville. Ian and I were supposed to make $5500 each for 3 and half months of work which would have been pretty decent pay for us (before taxes) but after unforeseen costs and it taking longer than expected we ended up making about $3000 for 5 months of work. We can’t live off that. Ian has a wife and two kids. The rest of that $25,000 all went to materials and studio, scaffolding, and tool rentals. We’re not trying to get paid with the fundraiser. We are trying to pay off the credit card debt we went into for the project. Ian and I both live below the poverty line and have our entire careers. We do it because we love it. The shit just pours out of us. we gotta channel it or waste away.

    And to answer another question, the Wedge Brewery put the fundraiser together for us. I used to bartend there for years. Tim and Trish and everyone that works there are really great people and will do stuff like this for there (former) employees. God Bless ’em.

    1. Art Lover November 20, 2014

      If the artists worked only 20 hours a week on this project (while also working on other projects) over three months, and each received $3,000, it seems they made only about $12.50 a hour, not a high wage for artistry and craftsmanship at this level. If they each only received $1,500, then their “pay” was below minimum wage. Good carpenters can receive $20 – or more – an hour. These artists were doing heavy lifting, not just wielding brushes standing – or sitting – before a canvas (not that that’s not work as well). They have left a permanent improvement on Asheville and deserve support. Since this work will undoubtedly become known as the Aloft Mural (despite its title, “The Daydreamer”), wouldn’t it be fitting if the Aloft Hotel and its owner, Mr. McKibben, made a $5,000 contribution to this campaign. Maybe one of Mr. McKibben’s associates/friends will speak to him.

      1. Alex Irvine November 21, 2014

        I don’t usually calculate my hourly wage because it’s depressing, but we worked 50-60 hours a week on the project for more than 4 solid months (the post says 5 months earlier, but I left this summer for a month) to make about $3000 (each). But since there are apparently so many skeptics out there I’ll do the math for them: that’s $3.75 an hour!!! and that’s guesstimating time conservatively. I worked 6 days a week on the mural and worked my “day off” volunteering to organize and manage construction at asheville’s DIY “Foundation” skatepark. We rented space next to the Foundation so I could be involved. I worked 2 and half months straight towards the end of the mural. My girlfriend and pup are on the other side of the country and I am hustling to get back to them, otherwise I love family time. The only way I survived this financially at all was living in Ian’s backyard for 3 months rent free and the city shutting off the power to the building 3 months before we finished, rendering the space rent free. We worked off solar panels and a battery bank, guerrilla style. We saved so much money yet we did not cut a single corner on quality and materials. We came to get down as hard as anyone you’ve ever met.

        As far as lifting goes, I did the math. the fired weight of the ceramic sculpture is 1500 lbs fired. more like 2000 wet. I weighed each individual block for the engineer… Each block I lifted over 30 times. Easily 50,000 lbs over the summer. not counting the 500 lbs of stainless steel and epoxy… or the concrete work at the skatepark, which is heavy.

        It seems like some folks don’t get that we are really generous people and practically give away our time when we aren’t in fact giving it away. If you don’t like the mural, then I guess it’s a shame the city spent 25,000 on it and that our friends are chipping in some more, mostly in $20 increments. Perhaps you’d prefer some tax breaks for another corporation to move into town? Some more parking meters? The city just got $50 million dollars!! we are chump change. In my opinion the culture of community is what makes Asheville great and a lot of that to me is helping one another grow and prosper, not climbing over each other to the top, slinging slurs and talking shit. I am sorry to rant, but I just want folks to know where we are coming from. We work for the public because it is an issue of conscience. Our work is accessible to every walk of life that rolls through this town, from bum to business man. Our artwork is expensive to make and it isn’t squirreled away in some millionaire’s home. Its right there on the corner for you and your kids and their kids to enjoy for FREE. Or hate on apparently. I’m not trying to make myself out to be a saint ’cause I ain’t, but it does feel a bit ridiculous when you do so much for your community and some bad apple starts spreading ills. We had an open forum for the community to add input to the design. Are these the kind of people that don’t vote and then bitch about who gets elected??

        Art Lover, I know this reply is on your comment and I’m sorry. You are great. The part about hours and stuff was actually related to your post. Excuse me for setting up a soapbox.

        I would love to start a heated discussion about the value of public art and hear what these critics have to say. Especially those who say they are artists. Who buys your work? who can AFFORD to? who do you make it for? Why do you make it? Ian and I are as crazy as the next artist and make some wild shit on our own time, but when you work for the public you have to curb your aesthetic. Perhaps we’ll grow more into our own within those boundaries, but for now we have to keep it tame, classic and classy. Maybe well push some envelopes on that front in the future. We already have in terms of engineering.

        Ok, I’m done.

        Please respond lovers and haters, this is fun.

    2. Matt November 21, 2014

      Nice breakdown, Alex. Thanks for sharing the math with us. And thanks for that beautiful mural.

    3. ashbeard November 21, 2014

      Thank you for detailing the costs, Alex. And thank you, and Ian, for the wonderful piece of art.
      I agree with Art Lover, Aloft Hotel will benefit from the exposure and enhancement of their facade, perhaps they could kick in on some of these unforeseen expenses.

  3. jenny November 18, 2014

    $25,000 in taxpayer money to complete it.
    Way too much money spent on this already. We need to spend money on better things. I love art, I am an artist but this is ridiculous.

    1. chris November 21, 2014

      You’re an artist? Congratulations!

  4. ashevillain November 18, 2014

    They’ve got it backwards. The artists should have to pay anyone who looks at that horrible “artwork.”

    1. hauntedheadnc November 19, 2014

      What would you have preferred instead?

      1. ashevillain November 19, 2014

        Well, there are infinite possibilities so that’s an impossible question to answer without actually designing something and showing it to you. Photography is my preferred medium so this type of public art is obviously something that I’m probably not going to create. That being said, a blank stucco wall would be an improvement.

        Don’t get me wrong. I love art. I love public art. This piece is just awful…but I guess it fits with its surroundings considering the Aloft Hotel is one of the worst pieces of “architecture” in this city.

        1. chris November 21, 2014

          “…so that’s an impossible question to answer without actually designing something and showing it to you.”

          So, what you’re saying is that you got nothing but complaints.

  5. ashbeard November 18, 2014

    $30,000 mural. I sincerely enjoy this piece, it’s beautiful, however I never knew that it costs so much money to do murals (I know, it’s not just any mural because it incorporates low-relief sculpture as well).

    1. Arts Lover November 18, 2014

      Would it help if the artists laid out the complete budget for the project, showing the amount spent on materials, equipment, the engineer’s fees, etc., etc.? This might give the general public an idea of what art costs. Also, they could detail the number of hours they invested in the project. Will their labor even net them the amount Asheville considers a living wage?

      1. avl'ater November 18, 2014

        Absolutely, please account for every penny.

      2. ashbeard November 19, 2014

        Yes, it would. When it comes to investing $30,000 in a mural, I feel that the people of the city should know what specifically this is going toward.
        We all work, roughly, 2000 hours each year. Most of the working class in Asheville makes about $25,000-$30,000 a year (est).


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