These were the runners-up to the dandelion sculpture slated for Salem Parkway in Winston-Salem | Local News

Waiting for that 40-foot-tall dandelion to go up over Salem Parkway gives people a chance to look over the alternative submissions that didn’t make the cut.

Meanwhile, Forsyth County is getting into the latest round of public art installations by approving a 12-foot-tall sculpture of butterflies ascending at the Clemmons branch of the Forsyth County Public Library.

Folks in Winston-Salem — the City of Arts and Innovation, mind you — had some strong reactions pro and con when the city council recently approved $1 million for the dandelion installations at Peters Creek Parkway and the Church Street bridge on Salem Parkway.



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A concept illustration of the dandelion sculpture the city has approved for placement along Salem Parkway. The 40-foot-tall dandelion, envisioned as “a symbol of invasive hope,” would rise near Peters Creek Parkway.


City of Winston-Salem


Kelly Bennett, the city planner who has overseen the parkway effort, is taking the controversy over the dandelions in stride.

“To be fair, it is a big public project that grabs people’s attention,” he said. “It is kind of meant to be a big, whimsical piece of public art. People will be surprised by it driving down the road.”

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The proposals that didn’t make the grade include a zig-zag metal structure meant to express “dynamic upward movement,” and steel magnolia blossoms on the the Church Street bridge.

The butterflies planned for the Clemmons library are not as tall, don’t cost nearly as much to put up and haven’t drawn a peep of public controversy.

Of course, they haven’t been in the media until now. But if things go the way artist Seth Palmiter hopes, the butterfly sculpture will stay out of controversy’s way.

wow factor

“I feel like controversial art is fine in the private sector, but in the public world, I don’t think art should be controversial,” he said. “My mandate is first to the taxpayers, how the space is being used. I think about the person viewing it. The second mandate is to the stakeholders, the folks working at the library or the community putting the art together. I try to make it be something that someone who is not interested could walk up and say, ‘Wow, how did they do that?’ “

The wow factor Palmiter is counting on will come from the implied motion and changing colors of the steel butterfly silhouettes as they are affected by the changes of the light during the day.

On Aug. 4, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners agreed to pay Palmiter, whose company is Motivated Metal, $55,000 to design, create and install “Pollinator Sculpture” in a courtyard at the Clemmons branch library.

The steel sculpture will stand 12 feet tall on a base that’s 30 inches in height, and will represent a series of butterfly silhouettes in an ascending pattern. The county will get the chance to collaborate with Palmiter on picking the final color palette and the flowers that will be planted around the base to amplify the pollination theme.

Palmiter is supposed to have the sculpture in place by the end of April 2023.

When Bennett presented the dandelion proposal to the Winston-Salem City Council, he noted that the City-County Public Art Commission, which made the recommendation, saw the dandelion art as standing above the competition.

“They unanimously supported the project, and were honestly really excited about it,” Bennett said.

Negative comments about the dandelions quickly sprouted on social media, although the dandelion had defenders as well: Council Member Kevin Mundy even authored a guest column in the Journal calling the sculpture “fine and dandy.”

Bennett said members of the art commission found problems with the other entries, or felt some just didn’t seem as impressive.



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Jeffrey Reed + Jennifer Madden, for the Church St. bridge, “Magnolia Illuminata” day view


Take for instance the submission called Magnolia Illuminati, which envisioned stainless-steel garlands of magnolia blossoms that would stretch across the Church Street bridge. The team of Jeffrey Reed and Jennifer Madden that submitted the proposal said the magnolia blossoms would symbolize “everlasting connections, elegance and hospitality.”

The steel blossoms would be lit at night by LED lights of varying colors.

“It would look great if you walk over the bridge, but when you drive under it, it was really hard to see,” Bennett said. Also, that team didn’t submit a proposal for the Peters Creek Parkway interchange, and the committee wanted “something that would speak to both locations.”



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Manifold Creative Concepts team, for Peters Creek Parkway, “Dreaming Upwards” The zigzags spell out WS when seen from certain angles.


Another proposal, a steel sculpture that would zigzag in front of Truist Stadium at the interchange, was designed by a team composed of Manifold Creative Concepts, Creative Machines and state poet-laureate Jaki Shelton Green. It incorporated the initials WS, Bennett said, but that design didn’t impress the committee as much as the dandelions.

The design team submitted a proposal only for the Peters Creek Parkway interchange.

The zigzags would change shape when seen from different positions, and the shadows cast by the steel beams would change as well. The project also included the composition of a community poem, which would be displayed nearby.

The Humanity Memorial Team’s proposal for Peters Creek Parkway featured multicolored metal calla lillies standing over a representation of people painted in multicolored hues.



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Peters Creek Parkway interchange, “The Bouquet of Inclusion”


“I know that they were trying to show diversity and a happy community,” Bennett said. Another sculpture, metal arches rising over one end of the Church Street bridge, like the steel magnolias, came across to the committee as looking better on the bridge than it would from Salem Parkway.

Palmiter submitted a bid for the Salem Parkway public art, but his soaring metal monoliths — Bennett’s description — made committee members feel “the designs would get lost in the background with light poles for utilities and signs.”

Bennett said Palmiter’s proposal for the Clemmons library was “a really nice simple design that really worked well at the library.”

“It was aimed at the larger community, but it is also a place where they have children’s programming, and it is right outside the children’s room. We wanted something attractive to the kids. Even though it is simple, a taller piece gives us a lot of public art for the money.”

Deadly art

Stacey Lindell, who handles business matters for Palmiter, said that people need to understand why public art near a freeway can be so expensive.

“The engineering and coordination for this is going to cost real money,” she said, adding that the costs look reasonable “because it is a very complex project.”

“That is truly an infrastructure project, so it will require serious technical administration,” she said. “You want to spend big bucks to make sure the art is not going to kill someone. We have seen some bad things happen when people overreach.”

In his submission to Forsyth County, Palmiter stressed that his art would be durable and require little maintenance.

Lindell said she and Palmiter judged that the city was evaluating the art submissions through a “rigorous process,” and that people here should feel confident they’re getting a quality product, whether or not they like the dandelions.

The dandelion sculptures won’t be installed until after they’ve been reviewed and approved by the NC Department of Transportation, said Pat Ivey, the division engineer for the department in Forsyth County.

Bennett said the city has a lot more public art than people realize. To see a map showing the location of public art, people can visit www.cityofws.org/1267/Public-Art-Commission and click on the public art map.

Bennett said the strong reaction to the dandelion art proposal has the city thinking about how to make the selection process better.

“It is definitely something we should talk about,” he said.



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This concept illustration shows the yellow metal dandelion flowers that would decorate the Church Street bridge over Salem Parkway in Winston-Salem.


City of Winston-Salem




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Submission by Humanity Memorial Inc. for Church Street bridge: “The Embrace of Diversity”


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