Community Arts & Culture

Community Center Retaining Wall

David Finn 
Winston-Salem, NC

October 2009

molded & carved concrete, riverstone aggregate 

Community Center Park 
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Project Overview

At the Chapel Hill Community Center on 120 South Estes Drive a wood retaining wall separating a hillside from a playground area needed replacement; this situation presented an opportunity for an area artist to imagine an artistic and creative solution for this utilitarian project.  North Carolina artist and former Chapel Hill resident David Finn was selected to design, fabricate and install a replacement wall at the site.  The purposes of the wall are to:

  • Keep a low hillside from collapsing
  • Provide an area for parents to sit near the playground and watch their children
  • Provide a play object on which children may climb
  • Improve the area by adding an art element to the park

The implementation of this project was directed by the Town's Cultural Arts Division with periodic reviews conducted by an Oversight Committee comprising citizens, local artists, and members of the Public Arts Commission, Town staff and Council.  Public comment was sought and these ideas informed the project.  $47,600 was encumbered for design, fabrication and installation of the wall.  The completed artwork, entitled Sculptural Climbing Wall, consists of low, safety-approved, interlocking blocks of concrete and riverstone aggregate with molded and carved undulations for sitting and climbing.  The wall was completed in October of 2009 and a dedication was held in January of 2010.

      Sculptural Climbing Wall


On May 10, 2004, Council resolved to authorize conceptual development of a potential Percent For Art project at the Community Center as part of the 2004-2005 Annual Public Art Plan (2004-05-10/R-16).

In July of 2008 the Public and Cultural Arts Office, the Parks & Recreation Department and the Chapel Hill Public Arts Commission developed a project where a deteriorating retaining wall currently bordering the Community Center playground would be replaced with a functional and artistic retaining wall designed and created by a North Carolina artist.

A Request For Qualifications was issued in August of 2008 inviting North Carolina-based artists and artist teams to apply for the commission.

In October of 2008 an Artist Selection Committee comprising local arts professionals; representatives from the Arts Commission and the Parks & Recreation Commission; the Parks and Recreation, Public Works and Engineering departments and the Chapel Hill - Carrboro Mothers Club reviewed the submitted qualifications and selected three finalists to make proposals to the committee.

In January of 2009 the committee interviewed the finalists in Chapel Hill and selected artist David Finn of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

In February of 2009 the Arts Commission endorsed this selection.  On February 23rd Chapel Hill Town Council authorized the Town Manager to enter into a contract for the project (2009-02-23/R-4).

On February 25, 2009 David Finn canvassed Community Center playground users, showed them project models and a full-size Styrofoam mockup of a wall section, and received feedback.

On March 4, 2009 David Finn presented his design and models to the Chapel Hill – Carrboro Mothers Club and heard their comments.

On April 15, 2009 David Finn presented the project’s Preliminary Design Products to the Oversight Committee comprising citizens, local artists, and members of Town staff and Council.  The Oversight Committee unanimously approved the Preliminary Design and budget, and provided feedback for consideration in future stages. 

  model of proposed wall

On May 4, 2009 the Preliminary Design was presented to Chapel Hill Town Council.

On May 19, 2009 the Oversight Committee approved the project's Design Documents.

On June 5, 2009 the Oversight Committee approved the project's Construction Documents.

On August 17, 2009 the Oversight Committee approved the completion of the project's Fabrication Phase.

      casting wall block in mouldfinished blocks at yard

On September 8, 2009 a portion of the playground was closed and excavation of the site began.

On September 11, 2009 pieces of the wall were delivered to the site and their placement began.

On September 18, 2009 the closed portion of the playground was reopened and Sculptural Climbing Wall was ready for public use.

   Sculptural Climbing Wall

On October 5, 2009 Sculptural Climbing Wall passed Town inspection.

On October 9, 2009 Sculptural Climbing Wall was approved by the project's Oversight Committee and found to be in conformance with the previously approved design.

On November 4, 2009 final documentation and paperwork were received by the Public and Cultural Arts Office.

On January 28, 2010, an opening dedication was held, with remarks from Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, Parks & Recreation Director Butch Kisiah, Public Arts Administrator Jeffrey York, and David Finn.

       David Finn, Artist; Enid Handler, CHPAC; Butch Kisiah, Parks & Rec Director; Mayor Kleinschmidt



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