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Providing a Splash of Happy: New Vibrant Turchin Center Stair Mural Now Needs a Name!

TCVA Stair Mural. Photo Shauna Caldwell

A stunning site-specific art installation has just been completed on the outdoor grand staircase at the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts. The Turchin Center is situated on King Street and lies at the crossroads of Appalachian State University and downtown Boone and this staircase serves as a pedestrian connector between the two. Several years ago the staff and advisory board at the Turchin Center recognized the imposing concrete staircase as a “blank canvas” with potential to be transformed into something special. After considering a variety of artists, the dynamic duo of Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn @jessieandkatey were commissioned to transform the stairs into what has become an eye-popping mural.

     The concept for the mural takes it cues from textiles and the design is a vibrant and geometric painted stair runner that runs from the top of the 36-step grand staircase, flowing to the bottom of the steps and beyond, and terminating with a fringed edge often found on a rug. From a position at the bottom of the stairs looking up, one can imagine the warp of a weaving loom projected as multi-colored lines run up the entirety of the steps. Though the design is abstract, it is hard not to image that the intersecting angles mimic mountains and valleys and a circle conjures up thoughts of the sun rising or setting. Because the stairs are a three-dimensional form, the design takes on a different look when standing at the top of the stairs looking down and the large stair landings are focal points for some of Jessie and Katey’s trademark curving shapes.

     Upon completion of the mural, Jessie and Katey spoke about their mission which is a “simple desire to bring playfulness to public spaces and enhance people’s lives through art.” They talked about wanting to create some “visual commotion” that causes people to pause as they intersect with the art. Judging by the number of people who have stopped to visually absorb the now vibrant staircase, have raised their phones to take a photo, or just paused to smile, they have indeed accomplished their goals. Their belief that “aesthetics of one’s environments can influence their emotions and state of mind” is particularly relevant during the Covid-19 pandemic when people are craving experiences that encompass joy.

     There is no doubt that the stair mural has a vibrant personality. The only thing it is missing is a name and the Turchin Center is inviting the community to put on their creative thinking caps and submit suggestions via this google form or plug this link into your browser: https://bit.ly/3hofYR3. Entries will be accepted until September 30, 2020.

About the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts

     The Turchin Center for the Visual Arts, named for university benefactors Robert and Lillian Turchin, fulfills Appalachian State University’s long-held mission of providing a home for world-class visual arts programming.  The largest facility of its kind in the region, the center presents exhibition, education and collection programs that support the university’s role as a key educational, cultural and service resource. The center presents multi-dimensional exhibits and programs and is a dynamic presence in the community, creating opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to experience the power and excitement of the visual arts. Its seven galleries host changing exhibitions featuring local, regional, national and international artists.

     The Turchin Center is located at 423 West King St., in Boone. The Turchin Center is currently closed due to Covid-19. Typical hours are 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Tues. – Thurs. and Saturday, and Noon – 8 p.m., Friday. The Center is closed Sunday and Monday, and observes all university holidays. Check the website for schedule changes due to Covid-19.  Admission is always free, although donations are gratefully accepted. For general inquiries, to be added to the mailing or e-news list, to obtain donor program details or to schedule a tour, call 828-262-3017, e-mail turchincenter@appstate.edu or visit tcva.org. The Turchin Center can also be followed on Facebook and Twitter @TurchinCenter.