Mural unveiled at Belk Library
By Melanie Davis
Community members, elected officials, staff and students were all part of a big cover-up last week — and then an uncovering.
A packed house gathered last Thursday for the unveiling and dedication of a mural by artist Brenda Mauney Councill at Appalachian State University’s Carol Grotnes Belk Library.
Dubbed “The Quest for Knowledge,” the mural is painted to appear as an open atrium revealing sky and clouds with a carved frieze surround of faux limestone panels featuring famous landmarks of the High Country.
On the first level, Councill painted several different panels iconographically depicting the many colleges and sports accomplishments of ASU. Scrolls appear to come out of the walls between the panels by the use of trompe l’oeil techniques, which is French for “fool the eye.” Each scroll represents different languages, mathematic equations and a history of the communication of knowledge.
Moving upward famous quotes adorn the next level of the atrium, including, “Do better and make it better,” by Irwin “Ike” Belk, benefactor of the project.
All eyes are on the newest mural by Brenda Mauney Councill at Appalachian State’s Belk Library during last week’s unveiling.
Photo by Marie Freeman
At the upmost level, Councill’s talent shines with the faux limestone panels featuring signature landmarks of the area, including Grandfather Mountain, the Blowing Rock and the Linn Cove Viaduct. This was completed at the specific request of Belk to incorporate the natural beauty of the High Country into the mural. The open atrium section was painted to appear as wooden columns opening to a beautiful sky.
The mural took nearly two months to complete. Councill worked on scaffolding up to 90 ft. tall, though that aspect is not new to her. Large-scale is her specialty, having been commissioned for her first large outdoor sculpture at the age of 11 in Jacksonville, Fla.
Councill has made a living as an artist her entire life, from first show at the age of 7 to current projects. After a few weeks to rest in her Blowing Rock home, she is off to the Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C. for another library mural, as well as a stop in Los Angeles for her budding film career as a script writer.
Councill relocated to Blowing Rock recently to “reconnect with my roots.” She continued, “I have great summer memories of my childhood here. I was tired of the urban life and seeking peace. The natural surroundings and the age of the mountains make the area particularly inspiring.”
The Councill family has significant ties to the town of Boone. It was founded by Jordan Councill, an ancestor of Brenda’s, in the 1760s. More recently, Brenda Councill’s grandmother was the head librarian for ASU in the 1960s.
Chancellor Kenneth Peacock cited those roots as he addressed the crowd at the dedication. “Carol Grotnes Belk Library and Information Commons is a point of great pride on this campus and across Western North Carolina. The series of murals painted by Brenda Councill will distinguish this facility even more. It is truly special to have an artist who has such deep roots to the region bring her talents to this project. Her work will be enjoyed by those who visit the library for years to come.”
Peacock also expressed his gratitude to the project’s benefactors, Irwin and Carol Grotnes Belk.
“They have truly enriched our campus with their continued generosity,” he said of the Belks. “The Belks’ support of education has truly transformed higher education, not only here at ASU, but across the state of North Carolina.”
To view additional works, visit Councill’s Web site at www.councill.net.