news-category: GWU History

GWU Library Dean and Archivist Leads Preservation of 1967 Mural in Dover Center

Natalie Bishop works to remove the mural from the wall

Created by Famous Artist, Sidney King, 33-foot Painting Depicts History of Textiles

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—A 33-foot mural depicting the history of textiles—familiar to generations of Gardner-Webb students—was recently removed from the Hoyt Bailey Dining Room in Gardner-Webb University’s Dover Campus Center. The mural has been stored in an environmentally-controlled space in Dover Library and will be reinstalled later in the University’s new Welcome and Admissions Center.

The painter, Sidney King, was a nationally known artist from Milford, Va., who painted the largest mural in North America (400 feet long x 75 feet tall) in the rotunda of the Mormon Information Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. This famous artist was commissioned to create the mural in the late 1960s by Charles I. Dover, president of Dover Textile Group Inc. and a dedicated supporter of GWU, and Maurice E. Fischer, president of United Factors of New York, N.Y., a division of United Merchants and Manufacturers.

Dover Library Dean and Archivist Dr. Natalie Bishop and Payne
Murray, circulation and periodicals assistant carefully loosen
the edges of the mural.

King is also known for the 400-foot mural he created for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. Over the decades, King painted nearly 200 historic murals for the National Park Service, mostly displayed outdoors at Civil War battle sites and Historic Jamestown. He was known for his skillful painting and the historical accuracy of his works.

“The Sydney King mural is an important artistic representation of our University’s relationship to the rich textile heritage of our region,” noted Dr. Natalie Edwards Bishop, dean of the Library and University archivist. “While the textile industry—like higher education—is wildly different than when the mural was painted, it leaves us with a futurist vision of where we might choose to go. It is exciting to be part of preserving this mural and thinking about how it might be displayed in the next chapter of our campus’s development.”

The mural was dedicated on Jan. 28, 1967, and the Shelby Star reported that over 20 North Carolina textile firms gathered to view and take part in the dedication. King spoke briefly to the 75 textile leaders gathered. The painting symbolizes the history of textiles from around 5,000 BC to what was then the future (2,000 AD). The article said King used a new synthetic type of paint, acrylic, and worked on the project for 35 days.

A brochure from the University Archives further describes the symbols in the painting. The ribbon-like design running through the entire mural portrays the dynamic motion of the textile industry. Depicted are the spinning wheel of the 1600s, the spinning frame of 1790, and the endless perforated belt, the brains of textile automation in general use by 1930. A mortar and pestle symbolizes the coming of age of chemistry, introducing new frontiers in fabrics. As the artist imagined the future, he painted a transparent dome which would enclose a sports coliseum and an aerial expressway with cars having a speed of 200 mph.

To ensue this historic artwork was removed carefully and without damage to the canvas on which it was painted, the University received expert guidance. Support came from Jeff Futch of The North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and Craig Crawford of Crawford Conservation in Charleston, S.C.  

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at Gardner-Webb.edu.

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