By Sarah Colson
When local artist and Artlandia Founder Virginia Buda moved from Charlotte, N.C. to the Tree Streets in Johnson City eight years ago, she quickly noticed her neighborhood had lots of year-round cyclists. That observation inspired Buda to begin a six-year journey to fundraise a bicycle-inspired public work of art next to South Side Elementary.
When complete – its next major fund raising event is March 24 – the piece will be the first public work of art in a Johnson City residential neighborhood.
“I spent a lot of time observing the neighborhood,” Buda said. “What I saw consistently with the Tree Streets is that there were a lot of people biking. And not just biking in the spring and summer months, but in the winter and fall. If it was raining, it didn’t matter. There was always someone biking.”
Buda hopes to raise at least $10,000 as an artist fee for the work, which she said has already been approved at the municipal level. In addition, Johnson City’s Park and Recreation Department has agreed to maintain and insure the piece. $7,500 has already been raised, partly through 11 bikes local artists have carved out of wood, which have been distributed throughout 18 different local businesses. Fifty percent of those funds went towards the artist; the other half toward the permanent piece of art to be displayed in the Tree Streets.
Buda said when she and her husband moved to Johnson City in 2008, there was no Public Art Committee, no Founder’s Park, nor many “visual cues in Johnson City for public art.” This was a surprise to Buda, coming from art-dense Charlotte.
“We moved into the Tree Streets and I said ‘this is the kind of neighborhood where this kind of project would be wonderful,” Buda said. “It’s a very active community. And biking is something that’s not only seen throughout the entire year in the Tree Street neighborhood, but it’s a subject matter that all of us relate to. We’ve all had a biking experience. It doesn’t matter what culture, what socioeconomic background, everyone has this experience. The Tree Streets sort of represents, as culturally diverse as it can, that sort of community we can all relate to.”
This year’s third annual YUM-YUM event’s funds will go toward the piece. Eleven local businesses will offer international tapas and wine on Thursday, March 24, from 6-8 p.m. at Nelson Fine Art Center located at 324 E. Main St. in downtown.
Also showcased during this year’s YUM-YUM is a new art program called “Free Range Art,” a K-12 art program for which children produce work for display and sale. The proceeds of this sale will directly benefit each child’s school’s art program. This year students are producing works of art using bicycle wheels, with their work on display for a month at Nelson Fine Art Center. Buda said 12 local schools have been asked to contribute.
YUM-YUM will highlight 11 local restaurants. Two glasses of wine will also be included. Businesses this year include: The Millennium Center, Main Street Catering, Jonesborough, The Main Street Pizza Company, The Fresh Market, Krazy Krepe, Noli food truck, Freiberg’s German Restaurant, Baklava by Wanda Buda, Homesteep Tea, Brew Plum Coffee Bar and One Stop Wines and Liquors.
There are 200 tickets for purchase. Tickets purchased in advance are $20 and $25 during the week of the event.
Buda said she’s enjoyed watching how the community and the city of Johnson City have come together to make what once was “just an idea” nearly come to life.
“I can’t express my gratitude enough to Dick Nelson,” Buda said of Nelson’s Fine Art Center’s owner. “He is kind of my art hero.
He has really stepped it up. Also, all of the restaurants are donating their food to this event. It’s been amazing to see local businesses saying ‘we believe in what you’re doing.’ The whole community is coming together. It’s not just talk anymore.”
For more information, visit artlandia.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.