BLADENBORO — Visitors to downtown Bladenboro, as soon as they enter the town, are confronted with a large beige wall with chipping and peeling paint — not the kind of image the town’s leaders want guests and residents greeted. That’s why, at March’s Boost the ‘Boro meeting, they decided to enlist Bladenboro artist Ben Gordon to paint a mural on it.
“It makes me feel good that they think enough of me and my work to trust me to do this,” Gordon said.
A Bladenboro native and an employee of Hester Tire, Gordon is no stranger to art.
“I’ve been drawing and painting since I was old enough to pick up a pencil,” he said, “anything from portraits to caricatures to sculptures. I do car tags and T-shirts, and I’ve even painted motorcycles.”
His newest project will be the side of the old Jones Department Store building, a 125-square-foot behemoth that was exposed when an adjoining buildin was demolished several years ago.
“I’ve done bigger,” said Gordon, “but this particular wall is in bad shape.”
He ran his hand along the wall, and sand, mortar and paint fell to the ground in response to just a light touch. He chipped away with his fingers a two-square-inch section of the wall and ran it between his fingers and, when he did, sand crumbled to the ground.
“I’ve been going along and taking the unstable material off the wall, and all of these places where the brick is exposed, I pulled the mortar off by hand,” Gordon said.
He wants to pull all of the weak material off of the wall, patch holes in the brick, wash and scrub the entire wall thoroughly, and coat it with an adhesive primer before beginning the mural.
“If I don’t spend time prepping the wall, everything else would be a waste of time and money,” he said.
Due to budget constraints, however, Gordon is not going to completely peel away all of the old material, but will focus on what he called the “unstable spots.”
Gordon’s full-time job prevents him from devoting his full attention to the project, so he is not sure how long it will take to prepare the wall to receive paint, but he anticipates that once he begins painting, the wall should be complete within a couple of weeks.
“I’m just coming out on my lunch hour, at night and on the weekend right now,” he said, “but I plan to take my vacation time and use that whole time to work on it.”
The planned mural will be a rendition of historical Bladenboro, including 13 old businesses like the theater and Bridger Motor Company, with the Beast of Bladenboro and the town’s seal at the center.
“I’m hoping people will appreciate how the town used to be and what has been done to get to where we are now,” said Gordon.
Samples of Gordon’s work can be found on his Facebook page by searching for “Dreaming Monkey.”
Anyone willing to help finance the mural can click here. Gordon stressed that any money donated would not be retained by him, but would be used to purchase materials that would extend the wall’s longevity.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.