Mercer Street Flowers

Staff photo by Jessica Nuzzo

PRINCETON — Frequent travelers of Mercer Street might notice more splashes of colors on their daily commute. The metal flowers that have adorned parts of the street since 2013 are multiplying, thanks to a local donor.

On Tuesday, October 6, a collaboration of artists from the Holler Contemporary Appalachian Art Gallery and the RiffRaff Arts Collective installed a total of 20 new sets of metal flowers on Mercer Street.

“We actually had a local funder reach out to us and ask if there was anything they could do to contribute to the street,” said Lori McKinney co-founder and administrator of the RiffRaff Arts Collective. “We gave them some ideas and they really liked the metal flowers. We have done several over the years, for peak of the bloom last year, we did the big installation next to Holler Gallery. We have put several up over the years because people really seem to like them.”

The first metal flowers to brighten Mercer Street were placed in front of “artist’s alley” and Appalachian Coffee House over seven years ago. Last summer, McKinney said she worked with The National Endowment for the Arts on an event called “Peak of the Bloom.”

“We started setting these metal flowers in 2013 and people have just fallen in love with them,” McKinney said. “So, last summer we did a project called, ‘Peak of the Bloom,’ and we set a large flower installation next to the Holler Gallery.”

The metal flower project began when McKinney and others from the RiffRaff met a Charleston-area artist, “Joe,” while playing music in Charleston. Joe liked their music so much that he sent them one of his hand-crafted metal flowers. The two have kept in contact ever since.

Thanks to this collaboration, the metal flowers are now available for purchase at the RiffRaff Gallery. Cameron McNeely is the manager of the gallery and was in charge of the metal flower project.

“It started a couple months ago and we got grants from an outside funder to add these to the street. Lori had me take on the project,” McNeely said. “It added a lot of color in the historic district, so maybe people will see these and they will start to pop up everywhere since they know they can buy them. To purchase they can either come into the gallery or they can call us and we place the order with one of our artists in Charleston.”

“Each are unique pieces and types of blooms. On Mercer Street, you will see sunflowers, poppies and more. All shapes and sizes and colors,” McKinney said. “If somebody wanted to have a flower in their yard they could pick anywhere from a small size, to what color or bloom.”

Richard Shrewsbury, the Director of the Holler Gallery was instrumental in the logistics of setting the metal flowers. He was present and ready to get to work at Tuesday’s installation.

“I have to wire them, hold them steady and pour concrete,” Shrewsbury said. “We get the flowers in pots, then I wire them in position so that they are stable and then I just mix the cement and concrete and let them sit and take the wires off.”

McKinney is excited about the colorful addition to Mercer Street. She said the project is the next step in the transformation of the community.

“The RiffRaff Arts Collective, we have been doing this development work for almost two decades now. We have been working to transform the community and we were really appreciative of the local funder teaming up with us to do this project. It is also really neat that we can support our efforts through the flowers,” McKinney said. “You do not have to water them, they do not die during the winter, and the color really just pops. Color can do so much for people’s moods. I think bright colors are some of our best tools to help lift people’s moods.”

According to McKinney, the installation of the new pops of color, year round, on Mercer Street would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of the creative community of Princeton.

“The arts community in our neighborhood, this amazing gallery and the RiffRaff across from each other. There has been a lot of community and collaboration,” McKinney said. “This project is an awesome example of artists working together.”

— Contact Emily Rice at erice@bdtonline.com

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