Five Points gets more color with new mural from one of Columbia’s most famous artists

Standing on a lift about 15 feet up, artist Blue Sky paints a rust colored line on a Five Points wall.

Despite the cooling weather, when the sun reaches its midday position, the rays beat on him enough that even his distinguished Panama brim can’t offer him much reprieve.

“I feel like a grilled chicken,” he said while sitting in Groucho’s Deli, taking a break from his newest work.

The rust-colored line is the beginning of a depiction of a bolt that, when complete, will be about the size of a large man’s hand. That bolt sits on one end of a steel chain rendering that’s the center piece on a building’s wall behind Groucho’s near the corner of Santee Avenue and Blossom Street.

About a month ago the wall was a grimly painted stack of bricks in front of which cars and dumpsters parked. Blue Sky had scoped out walls to paint in Five Points when the district’s business association approached him with the idea for a new piece of public art.

The finished mural will depict the steel chain foregrounding its crumbling anchor. It resembles his “Neverbust” sculpture on Main Street.

Blue Sky, who used to have a gallery in Five Points, is known as the creator of the giant fire hydrant sculpture “Busted Plug” on Taylor Street and the “Tunnelvision” mural as well as other public works in Columbia. His gallery is now located in the Arcade Mall near Main Street and Washington Street.

The new mural is the latest in a three-year period of public art projects going up in Five Points.

In 2016, a spherical fountain and sculpture of long-time Five Points leader Jack Van Loan were dedicated in what was dubbed Centennial Plaza. The same year, a mural of The Doors’ singer Jim Morrison was painted in the well-trodden back patio area of Jake’s, a popular bar and restaurant on Devine Street. The most prominent piece in this boom, the Five Points Postcard Mural, which faces Harden Street on the side of the former Pecknel Music Co. building, came in 2017. This year, The Hubbell, a brick sculpture resembling an eye or keyhole, was placed at Devine Street and Saluda Avenue.

“We love that kind of stuff down here,” said Steve Cook, president of the Five Points Association. “We plan to add a lot more.”

Blue Sky’s mural is about a month from being done, he said. But it’s not his first work in Five Points.

On the side of Home Team BBQ is a scene of Five Points in 1948. Blue Sky painted the mural around 1989, he said. It was completed in 1990, according to One Columbia’s public art database. He learned a lesson after completing the 1948 scene.

“Never paint a mural in a place nobody ever sees it,” he said.

The historic scene faces another building and can only be viewed if you walk or drive through a narrow pass of Home Team’s parking lot.

But even if no one ever saw his latest mural, that wouldn’t take away the joy he feels creating works of art.

“I just like painting,” he said.

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David Travis Bland won the South Carolina Press Association’s 2017 Judson Chapman Award for community journalism. As The State’s crime, police and public safety reporter, he strives to inform communities about crimes that affect them and give deeper insight into victims, the accused and law enforcement. He studied history with a focus on the American South at the University of South Carolina.