Speaker expresses dissatisfaction with polio mural vote

Hickory-resident Charlene Burger addressed Hickory City Council Tuesday night, expressing her disappointment in their decision not to allow a mural commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Miracle of Hickory to be placed downtown.

There’s been a common theme in at least five letters to the editor in the Hickory Daily Record recently. People are disappointed in the Hickory City Council’s decision on the location of a mural to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Miracle of Hickory.

One Hickory resident decided to address the council on this issue face-to-face Tuesday night.

Polio mural wall

The Hickory City Council offered the wall behind the Hickory Music Factory, pictured here, for a mural commemorating the Miracle of Hickory.

“It distresses me, enormously, that we are considering, that we voted, to put this beautiful mural, that highlights such a historic event in the city of Hickory … where no one would see it,” Charlene Burger said after giving a brief history of the Miracle of Hickory to the council.

Citing structural issues, the council voted not to allow the polio mural to be placed on the exterior, city-owned wall of the Hickory Wine Shoppe in Union Square on June 4.

If the Miracle of Hickory Commemoration Planning Committee wants to use city property for the mural, they will have to use an exterior wall at the Hickory Music Factory, which stands at the original site of the old polio hospital.

The committee and the Piedmont Post-Polio Support Group approved a mural designed by local artist Hunter Speagle several months ago.

Where should the Miracle of Hickory mural go?

Local artist Hunter Speagle's design has been chosen by the Miracle of Hickory Commemoration Planning Team for a mural to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Miracle of Hickory. The planning team and Speagle hope city council will allow the mural to be painted in Union Square.

The mural depicts a white nurse caring for a black child with polio, which represents how the hospital cared for every child in 1944, despite race, the committee said during their presentation to council on May 21.

In addition to voting on which city-owned location the mural can go, council also voted to have a say in the artwork during the June 4 meeting. This idea was proposed by Council member Jill Patton, and received the approval of every present council member other than David Williams.

“I voted no on the wall downtown because of the structural issues,” Patton said to the Hickory Daily Record on June 19, adding she would also like to see a design that is “all encompassing” of what the Miracle of Hickory was and she doesn’t believe Speagle’s current design does that.

After the June 4 meeting, Williams told the HDR he voted no because he doesn’t feel council should have a say in the design. He stood by that position on Wednesday.

“We shouldn’t interfere with the creativity of the artist,” he said, adding he is in support of the mural in its current design going on the music factory wall since the wine shop wall is not structurally sound.

When told Patton’s opinion on the design, Williams said: “She’s not a polio expert. She’s not a doctor. She’s not an artist … however anyone has the right not to like the painting.”

Patton stressed she is in support of the idea of a mural but it is up to the committee if they choose to move forward with putting a mural at the Hickory Music Factory or if they want to seek to put a mural on a privately-owned wall downtown.

“I think (a mural) is a great thing to celebrate what this city did,” Patton said.

The wall at the Hickory Music Factory also has structural issues, Patton added, but she’s been told those issues are a quicker fix than the downtown wall at the wine shop.

When asked when the last time she’s been out to look at the wall at the music factory, Patton said she has not been there recently.

The committee includes survivors of polio. Some were patients of the Hickory polio hospital in 1944. When asked if she’s met with any of the polio survivors or the committee to discuss the design and the mural location, Patton said no, saying she has not been invited.

On Wednesday, committee chair Cliff Moone said he extended the invitation for council to attend their last committee meeting during the June 4 meeting. This is reflected in the June 4 meeting minutes.

“Alderwoman (Charlotte) Williams asked if they could have a process for input or a discussion with the committee. Mr. Moone responded yes. He commented first of all, any of Council was welcome,” the minutes read. “The next meeting was at the Hickory Museum of Art, as it had been monthly for about a year now, over a year, the meeting would be held on June 10th at noon.”

The next step for the committee would be to choose a location, which will hopefully happen soon, Moone said.

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Jordan Hensley is the court reporter at the Hickory Daily Record. ​

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