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Winston-Salem's new dandelion art project sends social media into uproar over pricetag

The city's project planner said the artwork is a $1 million investment from a $100 million project.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Winston-Salem's new dandelion statues are getting a lot of heat on social media, with many saying the money could be put to better use. 

On Tuesday, Winston-Salem city council approved a contract to build two art installations off Salem Parkway - a 40-foot tall dandelion statue near the Peters Creek Parkway interchange and a bouquet of flowers on the Church Street bridge. The price tag - $1.05 million. 

But the money for the project actually came from a bond approved by voters in 2018. 

The city's project planner said while he's aware of the public's concern, the artwork is a way to grab people's attention in hopes to make the city stand out. 

"We live in the city of arts and innovation, is what we call ourselves, and we really need to look the part," Kelly Bennett, with Winston-Salem Planning and Development, said. 

Many people on social media are saying they're upset about the cost. 

"You've probably heard, 'the roads need to be improved or the city needs more affordable housing or the city needs to spend more on public safety,' - things like that, and the city spends the great majority of funding on issues like that, but the city also spends money on investments in its future," Bennett said.  

A huge dandelion and a pair of 12-foot tall bouquets will decorate a portion of the highway.

Posted by WFMY News 2 on Thursday, June 23, 2022

Bennett said the art installation is an add-on from the Business 40 improvement project. He explained when voters approve bond money, the specifics are not always detailed. 

"It's something more broad that as a project moves forward, the city, the department of transportation, city council, and public art commission in this case, will kind of use that money to make the project better," Bennett explained. 

He said the 2018 bond referendum was worded as "Business 40 enhancements" and is a $1 million investment from a $100 million project.

"If you remember, several years ago, it shut down 40 and rebuilt the bridges, and put in new pedestrian bridges, and this phase of the project was choosing public art for the project and getting that installed," he said. 

Bennett said the art statues need to go through state approval for safety measures. Once approved, they hope the displays will be up by 2023. 

MORE ABOUT THE ARTWORK

The concept for the Peters Creek Parkway interchange is a 40-foot tall, aluminum dandelion.

Credit: City of Winston-Salem, Elephant in the Room
Credit: City of Winston-Salem, Elephant in the Room

Scattered in the area surrounding the interchange will be various metal seeds and flowers, having seemingly drifted from the main dandelion flower. 

Credit: City of Winston-Salem, Elephant in the Room

The city and artist group behind the concept will work with the department of transportation to determine the best location for these smaller pieces of artwork.

The concept for the Church Street bridge is two 12-foot tall bouquets of yellow, aluminum flowers. Each sitting on either side of the bridge.

Credit: City of Winston-Salem, Elephant in the Room

The flowers will also light up at night.

Credit: City of Winston-Salem, Elephant in the Room

The group behind the idea is called "Elephant in the Room". In their proposal, the group said the flowers express unity and highlight diversity and love. They call the concept, "a symbol of invasive hope". They say the dandelion represents the grit and perseverance of the people and, "this resistance, tenacity and beauty is the soul of the dandelion and the foundation of our idea."

The group also said it wants the community to get engaged with the artwork. They propose reaching out to area schools to let students participate in some piece of the art. They also planned to build a website to provide more details around the design and build process so people can see who and how they created the piece.

In all the project will cost $1.05 million. The Peters Creek Parkway dandelion is $750,000. The Church Street Bridge bouquets are $250,000.

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