More than 30 artists submitted designs for the Main Street Creative Corridor banner competition, an initiative that is part of the revitalization of downtown Little Rock. On Thursday, winning designs by Virmarie DePoyster and Steve Sutherlin (Stephano) were officially unveiled at the parking deck at 2nd and Main.
“I can’t tell you how pleased I am to represent downtown,” said Gabe Holmstrom, executive director of the Downtown Little Rock Partnership. “A strong heart makes for a healthy and robust city. For too long, Little Rock had a wounded heart,” he said. “We are looking at the future where Little Rock can be the next great southern city.”
“All of the arteries coming in and out of our city continue to beat strong,” said Mayor Mark Stodola. “Part of this whole Main Street evolution is public art.”
Stodola and Todd Herman, executive director of the Arkansas Arts Center, selected the wining designs of the banner competition.
“Creativity is what drives us forward,” Herman said, “It’s what drives humanity forward. Without creativity, we are stagnant.”
Decorated with three large pieces of public art, the parking deck on Main Street features DePoyster’s work on the north and south ends, and Stephano’s work in the middle.
“Color has always been a strong part of my work,” said DePoyster, whose work will soon be featured at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.
Using colors from the Creative Corridor logo to create complimentary pieces, Depoyster portrays a ballerina — modeled after a dancer from Ballet Arkansas — and a saxophone player, modeled after an eStem Public Charter High School student.
Stephano’s painting incorporates the same color palette to illustrate the downtown skyline. The piece was “inspired by the national beauty of Arkansas, the structures and the color personalities,” he said.
“I am pleased that the colorful designs by these two local artists will brighten up Main Street by highlighting artistic expression in its many forms,” Stodola said. “As we head toward the grand opening event on Sept. 14, more and more projects will be finished, helping to complete the transformation of this grand American Street.”
Funding for DePoyster’s banners and the lighting for all three banners comes from the private foundation ArtPlace. Funding for Stephano’s banner comes from the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Initial planning and design for the Creative Corridor was funded by a 2011 Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Once completed, the Corridor will include rain gardens, porous pavers, bio-swales and other techniques to improve water quality with funding provided by a grant from the Arkansas Natural Resources Commission. Additionally, an increasing number of public, private and nonprofit groups have invested in Main Street in recent years led by the Downtown Little Rock Partnership.