Fine Arts Lecture Series


Murals, Monuments & Sculpture in Public Space

Presented by the Arts Council of Moore County and Weymouth Center

The American tradition that art should belong to everybody, and not just to a privileged few, has been honored since the early decades of the Republic. From the middle of the 19th century on, works of art celebrating the nation’s founders, its war heroes and victories, and accomplishments in science and culture were installed in the center of Washington, DC, where millions of visitors can admire them each year. Likewise, cities and towns across America remembered civic leaders and favorite sons with public sculpture and expressed local pride with monuments and the preservation of historic sites. Federal support for local art projects was especially vigorous in the 1930s when various government programs, like the FAP/WPA, funded paintings, sculptures, and murals in capitol buildings, post offices, and community centers throughout the country. The government’s intent was to raise public confidence, despite the losses of the Depression, and to reinforce national and individual values like patriotism, responsible citizenship, hard work, and commitment to the community.

Three lectures will examine how various forms of public art have flourished and changed over the last 100 years. How has the style of public sculpture kept pace with contemporary art, which continues to explore abstract forms, unconventional non-art materials, and most recently photography? How are artists chosen and where does the money come from? How is public space defined? And finally, who are the public exactly? Since the 1960s, the answers to these questions have become complicated by the public’s increasing demands for a new kind of art that reflects local values and history, as well as the stories of all ethnic groups. This new impulse by the community to control the message and the siting of a work of art suggests that in the future public art will endure not only for the people, but by them as well.

Lecture #1:
Thu., April 6, 2017 ~ 5:30 PM

Lecturer: Denise Drum Baker

Mural painting is often thought to be a modern urban phenomenon, but in fact murals have been created since ancient times. From the cave paintings of Lescaux to the street murals of today, people have been leaving signs of their own existence in many places around the world. A mural is a walk through history.

The word “mural” originates from the Latin word “murus,” meaning wall. We will look at murals that emancipate, show freedom of expression, social activism, and propaganda. Murals are considered an important aspect of socially engaging art and play a significant role in the relationship between art and politics.

Lecture #2:
Thu., April 27, 2017 ~ 5:30 PM
Lecturer: Molly Gwinn

Monuments speak to us in many different languages as they commemorate moments of national pride, the achievements of leaders, or the tragedy of loss. Some use figures of both heroes and common soldiers to honor the memory of all Americans who served and died for their country. Others rely on the grandeur of architecture and the incantatory magic of names and dates. Perhaps the most moving are those that preserve the actual places, the sites of memory where history was made. What all have in common is their ability to provide a space for the American community to remember and reflect. This lecture will consider how the experience of remembering has changed according to the language the artist uses and the public being addressed. Shifts in form, from the figural expressions of Civil War memorials to the geometric simplicity of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by Maya Lin, demonstrate that art can inspire a mood of reverence through any means.

Lecture #3:
Thu., May 11, 2017 ~ 5:30 PM
PUBLIC ART: Sculpture We Love to Hate
Lecturer:  Denise Drum Baker

At a fundamental level, art is intended to elicit an emotional response. Sculpture in public spaces in particular can be a lightning rod for controversy, possibly due to the implication that the piece will remain for a significant period of time or that a community value is manifested in the statue itself.

More than museum art, public art reflects the issues of its time and addresses a larger audience. With its built-in social focus, public art would seem to be an ideal genre for democracy. Yet since its inception, issues surrounding its appropriate form and placement, as well as funding, have made it an object of controversy more often than celebration. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We’ll talk about art in public spaces, some famous, some obscure, but always worth a second look.


Denise Drum Baker is an artist and recently retired professor of visual arts at Sandhills Community College. She earned her Master’s from Appalachian State University. Her list of awards and honors includes a Faculty Exchange from The Newry Institute in Northern Ireland; Fulbright Teacher Exchange Scholarship Nominee; and a Distance Learning Instructor at the NC Museum of Art. She most recently completed work on Post Cards Crossing the Atlantic, an exchange project with Irish colleagues demonstrating the lost art of letter-writing.

Dr. Molly Gwinn is an art historian who has presented the spring lecture series in the past and has offered classes at the Center for Creative Retirement at Sandhills Community College. She earned her doctorate from Rutgers University and has taught art history at Rutgers, the School of Continuing & Professional Studies at New York University, and the Dallas Museum of Art. She is the daughter of Barbara Sutherland, a well-known Southern Pines artist and long-time resident of Penick Village. Molly’s support for Penick continues through her work on the Penick Art Show.

COST (per lecture): $11 for ACMC & Weymouth Members / $16 for Nonmembers
(Prices include 6.75% NC Sales Tax.)

All Lectures will be presented at Weymouth Center (555 E. Connecticut Ave., So. Pines).

Space is limited. Please register now with full payment at the Arts Council’s offices (Campbell House, 482 E. Connecticut Ave., Southern Pines) or by calling 910-692-2787.

For additional information, call 910-692-ARTS (2787) or visit

Lecture #2 – Thursday, April 21, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. by Molly GwinnThomas Hart Benton & Grant Wood: Celebrating the Heartland

Lecture #2 – Thursday, April 21, 2011 at 10:00 a.m. by Molly Gwinn

Thomas Hart Benton & Grant Wood: Celebrating the Heartland