We always say the Roanoke Valley needs more murals – but a recent addition to Roanoke’s outdoor art offering sets an example of how it should be done.
Several buildings and industrial land are along a relatively isolated stretch of the Roanoke River Greenway that begins at a Cook Drive parking lot in Salem and ends on the north side of the river next to the rail yard Norfolk Southern.
One of these buildings has acquired a delightful surprise to offer passers-by – a 5,000 square foot mural depicting scenes from the Appalachians outdoors. The huge painting adorns the back wall of Barrows, a commercial interiors business on Blue Ridge Drive in southwest Roanoke that sells office furniture, commercial flooring, cabinets and other supplies to businesses, homes health care facilities, schools and even homes.
Barrows owner Chris Clemmer said the mural depicts “the four seasons of Appalachia”, with each scene depicting the same family involved in different activities throughout the seasons, including a game of bluegrass, with settings and details unique to our region. One scene includes a papaya. Another depicts the inescapable McAfee Knob being neglected.
People also read…
Josh Nolan, one of three artists who brought the mural to life, came up with the idea, Clemmer said. Nolan’s wife, Libby Shafer – together they are Nolan-Shafer Murals – and fellow Roanoke artist and muralist Maggie Perrin-Key rounded out the team of creative painters.
Although the mural is a joint project with the City of Roanoke and Roanoke Parks and Rec, it began with Barrows. “We get a lot from the Valley, so if there’s a little way to give back to people and do something nice, why not?” Clemer said
The company of about 50 employees, founded in Roanoke more than three decades ago, moved from Rockland Avenue Northwest to the renovated building on Blue Ridge Drive in 2020. Because Barrows already had to pay to repaint the exterior, Clemmer wanted to do something fun on the outside, but the right idea didn’t come right away.
However, the city wanted to augment this stretch of greenway with Liz Belcher Plaza, honoring the valley’s first greenway coordinator, now retired, and it turned out that to do this, Roanoke needed an easement. of Barrows. Clemmer requested that the money the city wanted to pay Barrows for the easement (approximately $10,000) be directed instead towards the mural he wanted to have, with the company picking up the rest of the cost.
“Barrows paid the vast majority of the costs and made a great contribution to the community,” said Doug Jackson, Roanoke Arts and Culture Coordinator.
Clemmer is thrilled with the results. “It was a home run. It’s perfect.”
Eventually, he intends to replace the trees between the mural and the greenway with a wildflower garden, but he said users of the greenway are encouraged to approach for a closer look.
The Barrows art wall is part of the city’s ‘Art in Place’ public/private partnership initiative which has also produced Josh Nolan’s largest ‘Floating, Together’ mural facing Campbell Avenue at 210 Fourth Street SW
“We hope the Art in Place strategy will help us do more work in neighborhoods and along commercial corridors,” Jackson said.
Barrows provides a great example of how a local business can work with the city to provide Roanoke with the kind of ambiance that visitors will enjoy and remember. Hopefully other corporate citizens will follow this example.