If you’ve made driven east into Asheville on 240 recently, you might have caught a glimpse of the city’s newest murals at The Asheville Cotton Mill Studios in the River Arts District.
Building owners Jannette Montenegro and Rich Patino commissioned local artists Andy Herod (@cylonboy) and Ian Wilkinson (@ianthepainter) to paint two large-scale works on the west- and south-facing sides of the building.
“We wanted to have murals that reflect our sensibilities and those of the community,” says Rich. “We also wanted to showcase the talent of one of our resident artists, Andy Herod, and we were so excited to have the great Ian Wilkinson return as he had painted the very first mural that went up at the Cotton Mill Studios.”
Both murals feature a unified color theme of blues, reds, blacks and whites.
“We liked the colors and how they show the mountains, river, and wildlife at sunset in a very dramatic fashion,” says Jannette. “It’s a scene you can experience everyday during dusk at The Cotton Mill Studios.”
The mural on the front section of the building, facing Riverside Drive, depicts a great blue heron mid-flight. Rich and Jannette, who have been homeowners in Asheville for 20 years, donate much of their time to volunteering with organizations like Asheville Greenworks, RiverLink, Friends of Town Mountain and the North Carolina Arboretum. Their passion for the unique ecology of Western North Carolina is part of what inspired the blue heron design, which was completed by Herod at their request.
“There is nothing grander than observing a great blue stalking prey along the shores of the French Broad River or in full flight against the setting sun over the Blue Ridge Mountains,” said Rich. “The heron also plays a significant role in the Cherokee culture. Its feathers are utilized as components of ceremonial attire. This sacred bird symbolizes introspection and self-reliance, and it represents an ability to progress and evolve.”
As the blue heron mural began to take shape, Rich and Jannette decided to expand the project to include a mural on the west-facing side of the building, which can be seen clearly from 240. This mural was also designed by Herod and features a detailed and noble portrait of his 8-year-old rescue dog, Linda, along with the phrase “Qué Linda!” which means “how cute” or “how lovely” in Spanish.
“It’s a nice message to see from the highway and it really describes the vibe of the River Arts District,” said Herod. “And who doesn’t love dogs?” Linda makes an appearance in much of Herod’s art and has become a recognizable character around Asheville.
Painting both of the murals took Wilkinson and Herod about two weeks. Both designs were drawn digitally and then projected onto the side of the building at night so the artists could create an outline.
“It was the first art I had ever done on this scale and I thought it was gonna kill me,” says Herod. “And the second it was done, I immediately wanted to do another one. It’s very rewarding to see something that starts as a tiny digital design become a massive piece of art that will give joy and pleasure to so many people.”