Community

Matt Willey Begins Bee Mural in Hendersonville

A mural similar to this will soon be in downtown Hendersonville.

HendersonvilleFor the next four to five weeks, from late October into November, a larger-than-life bee mural will be meticulously hand-painted by muralist Matt Willey on the exterior walls at Hands On! Children’s Museum building, facing Azalea parking lot, in downtown Hendersonville (along Third Avenue between Main Street and King Street)  The expansive “canvas” wall of this historic building was recently professionally washed and prepared for the artwork to begin, thanks to community donations and generous in-kind support from Burlett Painting.

The Bee Mural Project is a partnership of Bee City USA Hendersonville (a program of The City of Hendersonville Tree Board and Environmental Sustainability Board), Hands On! Children’s Museum, and The Good of the Hive, in partnership with nonprofit organizations, local businesses, and community members. Fundraising events and in-kind support have involved numerous businesses, individuals, and organizations, with over fifty sponsors and countless other contributors so far. The goals of this initiative are to raise awareness of the importance of pollinators; bring beauty and character to downtown Hendersonville; celebrate the power in human connection; and inspire actions to help sustain healthy ecosystems. Matt Willey committed to raising awareness about the plight of the humble honey bee. He therefore founded the Good of the Hive Initiative, an ambitious project to personally paint 50,000 bees in murals around the world. The number itself isn’t arbitrary—it takes about that many bees to sustain a healthy beehive. In 2017 Willey painted a mural on the store Wild Mountain Bees in Weaverville.  (See https://usmedia.buzz/2017/09/23/wild-mountain-bees-has-mural-painted-on-new-store/ for the full Tribune article.)

Critical pollinators

It is vitally important that the public be aware of the plight of the pollinators today and how the loss of pollinators can impact our food chain and thus our lives. According to the NC Cooperative Extension, “Henderson County produces 85% of North Carolina’s apples, and apples bring in about $30 million a year to the county economy.” Pollinators play a critical part in the growth of these trees.

The many activities and events surrounding Willey’s Bee Mural will hopefully bring more awareness to the amazing lives of these delicate creatures—not just bees but birds, butterflies, wasps, moths, flies, and many other pollinators. The monarch butterfly migration is a phenomenal event. An awareness of the life of this delicate butterfly will hopefully encourage gardeners to plant more host plants near their home. Kim Bailey, the coordinator of this mural project for Bee City USA Hendersonville, has raised money for this project by selling host plants grown at Milkweed Meadows Farm in Fruitland. If you would like to see an incredible video about monarchs and the Day of the Dead, visit https://youtu.be/sMs-lCaTKoE.

During the weeks it will take to paint this mural in Hendersonville—brush-stroke by brush-stroke, starting high on a boom lift and working down to ground level—Willey purposefully plans to involve viewers. Through art and imagination, his work inspires curiosity and awareness about the importance of honey bees and other pollinators while celebrating the power in human connection. Weather permitting, Willey will be on site almost daily and invites the community to stop by to meet the artist and watch him bring this huge mural to life. You can follow the progress virtually through a series of video updates about the bee mural project to be posted regularly at www.facebook.com/beecityhendersonville.

Bee City USA

Matt Willey resting, as he paints the mural at North Carolina Museum of Science in Raleigh.  Photo courtesy of the Good of the Hive.
Matt Willey resting, as he paints the mural at North Carolina Museum of Science in Raleigh.

Throughout the month a number of activities accompany this project. This Saturday, November 7th, Main Street in Hendersonville will be closed to traffic, allowing room for pedestrians, restaurant outdoor dining, and retail shopping. Visitors will be able to observe a colony of live bees in a glass observation hive; sample local honey, jun (a tasty honey-based beverage), and bakery items; purchase souvenir T-shirts; and view local artwork.  Vendors/exhibitors include Honey Bee Bliss, Bee City USA – Hendersonville, The Good of the Hive, Hands On! Children’s Museum, Shanti Elixirs, Black Bear Coffee, Deena’s Bakery, Zoretta Zedella Butterfly Flight Yoga, Art MoB Studios Marketplace, and others.

Back in 2015 Hendersonville became a Bee City USA, the seventh municipality in the country to be so designated. The effort was approved by unanimous vote of Hendersonville City Council. Bee City USA launched from Asheville in 2012 by Phyllis Stiles and merged with the Xerces Society (the largest pollinator conservation organization in the world) in 2018. This organization is an international nonprofit organization that protects the natural world through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitats.

Why Is The Mural Important?

First, according to Joseph Knight, executive director of the Hands On Children’s Museum, this project helps extend the Children’s Museum’s mission of inspiring creativity and wonder through STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) to the entire community. The project’s planners expect the mural to inspire more pollinator-friendly plantings by homeowners in their backyards, window boxes, and plots of land, such as the recently installed five-acre wildflower meadow along Hendersonville’s Oklawaha Greenway.

The museum is holding a Bee Thankful Art Project through November, with blank placemat templates that can be colored in and fun pollinator-themed prizes. You can pick up a copy of the placemat at the Hands On! Children’s Museum at 318 North Main Street.

For more information on the many activities, contact beecityhendersonville@gmail.com or follow the initiative’s progress at www.facebook.com/BringtheHiveAlive. Learn more about the Bee Mural Project, the Appalachian Mural Trail, and upcoming pollinator events at https://www.hendersonvillenc.gov/pollinator-events.