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Art for All

Meet four creatives whose work adorns the Magic City

Birmingham's beauty is the result of many contributions, including public works of art from these four artists whose love for the city clearly shines. We sat down to learn a little more about them and their work. We encourage our readers to take a stroll or drive around, view their artwork, and feel inspired. 

Samuel Fisher 
Woodworker 

Background and Inspiration
I have always loved using my hands to create and tinker. My love for the craft was sparked while studying, designing and building furniture in Taiwan. I then spent almost a decade in New York City honing my craft, as well as a year in Pennsylvania apprenticing at George Nakashima Woodworker, one of the founders of the Mid Century Modern Furniture movement. I look to the masters of the craft for philosophy and processes while trying to blend sculptural forms with architectural elements. 

What made you decide to create art for Birmingham?
The Botanical Gardens are one of the many treasures that Birmingham has to offer. Life is very fast now, sometimes frighteningly so, and the Gardens can provide much needed relief. I grew up going to the Gardens regularly with my mother and attending their summer camps as a child. I now enjoy visiting with my daughter and am honored to be a part of the long legacy.
 
Please say a few words about the work(s). 
The Japanese section of the Botanical Gardens is fascinating, and I was always intrigued by the layout and the beauty. When I was contacted by Jane Underwood from the Friends of BBG — a contact made through my talented friend, Holly Carlisle — to build these benches for the bamboo grove boardwalk, I was humbled.  My goal for this design was to feel as though they belonged in the environment and had always been there. They are made from Ipe, a South American wood known for withstanding harsh outdoor environments and rated to last 70 years without any treatment. 
 
What inspires you about the city?
Where else can you see such diversity and successful talent in a relatively small city? Birmingham has the history that drives artists to create, and the community here supports those artists. It is exciting to see so much talent and even more exciting to dive in and contribute. 
 
Nelson Grice
Sculptor 

Background and inspiration
I have always thought of myself as an artist, even as a young child. However, as many adolescents do, I shied away from it in my early teens until a high school teacher, Soon Bok Sellars, put me back on track in 12th grade. After college at the University of Montevallo, I taught art at Hoover High School for 25 years. Being immersed daily in the art of young people allowed me to not only sharpen my skills but expand my imagination. 

What made you decide to create public art for Birmingham?
When I found out a few years ago that the Council family wanted a sculpture in Avondale park, I immediately got in touch with Martha Myers Council to let her know I wanted to be considered for the job.
 
Please say a few words about the work(s).
Miss Fancy was a main attraction in the Avondale Zoo back in the early 1900s. When the zoo fell on hard times and had to close, Miss Fancy was sold. There are tales of her wandering through Avondale at night. The story is, children would look out of their windows and see her in their yards. She is a delightful part of Birmingham's history. I feel quite lucky to be the sculptor who was chosen to create this wonderful characterization of Miss Fancy. 
 
What inspires you about Birmingham?
When I moved here in the 1980s at the age of 14, Birmingham was very different. Over the years, I’ve been encouraged by the growth and progress of our city. I am inspired by the positive changes that are taking place, but many people are not aware that this city is stacked with talent. There are so many great artists in this city.

Jan Jander 
Sculptor 

Background and Inspiration 
I have always been drawn to nature, form and light. In high school, the late Birmingham architect Richard I. Pigford showed me a barn he had recently built near Birmingham Country Club. The roof, windows and doors were salvaged from an old structure in France, and he used board formed concrete which allowed a honeycomb effect for the walls. I was inspired by the depth of expression he achieved with the material; it had an enduring character that is usually achieved only with age, like lichen encrusted stone. I made my first concrete piece for a sculpture class in college and continued exploring the medium in graduate school, where my work caught the attention of my first patrons, leading me to show with Terrence Denley Gallery in English Village and then at the International Furniture Fair in New York.
 
What made you decide to create art for Birmingham?
My first museum commission was for a bench honoring the two founders of the Mason-Scharfenstein Museum of Art with their seat impressions. When I was invited to submit a proposal for benches at the Birmingham Airport, I saw an opportunity to honor notable Alabamians with their seat impressions.
 
Please say a few words about the work(s).
My largest Couture Benchscape to date, shown in the Contemporary Gallery of the Birmingham Museum of Art, has three seat impressions, and was a museum purchase with funds provided by the Friends of American Art in memory of Dr. Bill Mason with contributions by David Hogg, Richard I. Pigford, Lin Emery and Marcia Rubens. This is the only Benchscape to feature my reddish orange fractal pattern. This Benchscape is currently on the upper level, overlooking the original museum lobby.
 
What inspires you about Birmingham?
One of the reasons we are known as the "Magic City" is because of our soil's abundance of limestone, coal and iron ore to produce iron, but for me and my family, it’s the kindness and warmth of the people. My mom was born in the Philippines and my dad in Germany. I was born here, and my parents always mention the warm welcome they received from their neighbors, all of whom have remained life-long friends. I have lived abroad and in a few other cities and can confirm that the 'Ham is unique with her open arms of Southern hospitality. 

Marcus Fetch
Muralist 

Background and Inspiration
I first got into branding and design work in my 20s while building a nonprofit here in town called Redemptive Cycles. To help revitalize the area, I started painting murals in the back alley. Around 2017, I started a small creative agency with a couple friends and went into creative work full time. Word spread about my murals, and people kept calling so it became my primary source of income for a while and it was a blast!

What made you decide to create art for Birmingham?
I’m just in love with large creative projects, and I see so much untapped potential in the empty walls around our city. Murals make everyone happy and make our city unique and fun to live in. I’m honored to contribute to what makes Birmingham special,

Please say a few words about the work(s).
The mural I painted on the west end of a girl playing a flute is one of my favorites. While she plays, vines, flowers and wildlife bloom from the magic of her music. I wanted to capture the moment of being in a creative flow and inspire kids to pursue the arts. 

The mural of a girl with a rabbit jumping out of her head was the first mural I painted that was really out there. It was of my client's daughter and her stuffed animal rabbit and he really let me get outside the box with a crazy mural design that ended up being one of my most popular pieces!

What inspires you about Birmingham?
Birmingham has always been an underdog city with lots of potential. I’ve had big dreams for this city since I moved here 10 years ago, and I believe murals have a huge impact in drawing new people and the younger generation to live and build here. 

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