High schooler spends months on public art project
by David Leone
WAKE FOREST — You may have noticed the new public art project on South White Street.
Not the brick and ironwork bench at Jones Avenue paid for with public funds, but the mural on the north side of the Wake Forest Art & Frame Shop, next to Domino’s.
The entire 16-foot-by-8-foot mural was done by a Franklin Academy High School senior — for free.
“I was trying to show how public art can enrich a community,” said 18-year-old Marissa Banks, who painted the mural this spring, depicting the late 1800s to early 1900s.
It shows a train, horse and wagon and the old wooden depot that once stood on the west side of the tracks.
“I knew I wanted to have a historical part of Wake Forest in it,” Marissa added. “I talked to the building owner and he liked the idea of having a train station since it was across the street.”
It was her senior project for school — in which the students are supposed to pick a topic they’re interested in and create a product about it.
“I’ve been doing art a lot of years,” she said. “I like to paint and I’ve done some murals in the past.”
She helped her art teacher Jamie Moore and one other student paint a pastoral scene outside of the Franklin Academy Elementary School building and was one of a number of students who painted a mural about firefighting inside Wake Forest Fire Station No. 3 on Forestville Road.
Though she had some help from her sister, Emily, and two other Franklin Academy students, Marina Nicol and Stephanie Henson, Marissa did the lion’s share of the work.
“During spring break I worked on it every day. That was three weeks long. And after that, I worked on it more,” Marissa said.
She met with building owner John Lyon and he helped her craft the concept. Then, Marissa went to the Wake Forest Historical Museum for photos to work from and took pictures on her own of the railroad for detail.
The mural is painted in three segments on fiber cement board. She first sketched it out with pencil to make sure everything was proportionate and accurate. Then she painted it, a little at a time, using exterior acrylic paints.
The finished product was assembled on site May 28 by Doug Lilley, using a bucket lift. Marissa was present to supervise and do touch-up work on the rivets.
Marissa is heading to UNC-Asheville in the fall and may study art.
“Her initiative just to take on the project says a lot about her dedication to art,” Moore said Tuesday. “She went above and beyond in this project. It’s literally 10 times more work and time than her peers (did), which is outstanding to me.”
If Marissa does pursue the arts, she’s already established some credibility with the project, Moore said.
“She is now a public artist and has kind of established herself as an artist in the town,” added Moore. “It looks fantastic. She did a great job.”