As the summer weather rolls in, more and more citizens throughout Rowan County are getting outside to enjoy the fresh air and to spend time with friends and neighbors.  The increase in foot traffic, paired with current social distancing guidelines, has me thinking about some of Rowan County’s oldest and newest public artworks.  From Salisbury’s incredibly rich and diverse History and Art Trail to the brand-new installation of the Salisbury Sculpture Show, art lovers from RoCo and beyond are immersed in historical preservation and contemporary ideas. 

The History and Art Trail

The History and Art Trail was established by Downtown Salisbury Inc. and the Salisbury Community Appearance Commission in an effort to celebrate the county’s history with the community.  With more than 25 historical markers strategically placed throughout the downtown area, this trail is a real adventure for local history buffs and out of town visitors.  While some markers commemorate the life and works for specific people, others take note of critical moments in time that sparked change in our community. 

My favorite, perhaps, is the “Integration” marker located in the West Square at the site of the former Capitol Theatre. This marker signifies the end of segregated movie theatres, which occurred in 1952 following a protest organized by a group of Livingstone College students.  Another personal favorite, also located in the West Square, is the plaque honoring the “Female Raid” or “Bread Riot” which occurred in March of 1863. During this Salisbury Bread Riot, a group of about 50 women banned together against businesses who they suspected of driving up the prices of goods during wartime.  When one local store owner refused to submit, the women tried to bust into his business with hatchets.  “Finally, he decided to give them 10 barrels of flour if they would leave.  By the end of the day the women had obtained ‘twenty-three barrels of flour, two sacks of salt, about half a barrel of molasses, and twenty dollars in money’” (NCDCR).

Most widely known for his self-service grocery on East Council Street, Salisbury’s first black Mayor, Mr. Wiley Lash, is featured on one of the markers. The plaque states that Lash’s grocery store “served as an informal hub for political activism and social services for the needy.”

It is easy to overlook the markers along this trail if you aren’t looking for them, but trust me when I say that once you start to notice them, they are everywhere!  The best course for someone interested in checking out this History and Art Trail, is to visit the Rowan County Tourism Development Authority Center where you can pick up a map and brochure. This installation of historical markers honors five broad eras and is only further complimented by the more contemporary Salisbury Sculpture Show.

“Cloud Deer” by Jonathan Bowling. Photo courtesy of Uptown Salisbury, NC.


The Salisbury Sculpture Show

The Salisbury Sculpture Show, in my opinion, is one of Rowan County’s greatest attractions.  This show welcomes artists from across the country and rotates sculptural works every year.  The 2020 installation is being installed even as I type this, and I, along with many others, can’t wait to see what new pieces will be making their way into town.  After citizens and visitors fell head over heels for the “Charleston Horse” in last year’s exhibition, the Public Art Committee welcomed more animal themed pieces into this year’s show. “Cloud Deer” is a larger than life piece created from repurposed steel.  This work, also by “Charleston Horse” artist Jonathan Bowling, assumed the same location outside of New Sarum Brewing Company.  In addition to “Cloud Deer,” local sculptor Russell Foster’s “American Buffalo” made the cut.

“American Buffalo” by Russell Foster. Photo courtesy of Diana Cummings.


This one can be found next to Rowan Museum Inc. This fun and whimsical piece has already become a favorite of the locals despite only just being installed. Sculpture Show fans may also recognize the humor and style of returning sculptor Charles Pilkey. Pilkey has not one, but three pieces in this year’s show.  These include “Geometer’s Gate;” and “Forest At Night” and “Car Monsters,” Pilkey’s works are beloved by art enthusiasts of all ages.

The Otocast App, which was implemented last year, has been updated to reflect the new 2020 show. This app offers recorded descriptions of each work in the artist’s own voice, taking the Salisbury Sculpture show to the next level.  The growing show added two new host sites this year including St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Trinity Oaks Assisted Living Center.

I Spy Something Outside  

During the times of social distancing, it is more important than ever to find creative ways to keep ourselves engaged, active, and inspired. This summer, #BeAnOriginal and explore the Art and History Trail, the Salisbury Sculpture Show, and many of the public artworks throughout the Downton Salisbury area. Nothing beats fresh air, historic, brick stone buildings, and thought-provoking art! Visit the Rowan Tourism Development Authority at 204 E Innes St. Suite 120 and start your next great adventure!

“Car Monsters” by Charles Pilkey. Photo courtesy of Uptown Salisbury, NC.