We caught up with Warren County Project for the Arts (WCPA) founding member artists Melissa Ichiuji and Chris Stephens finishing up the first 2020 downtown Front Royal full wall mural, Wednesday afternoon, October 14. The project began on the side of the old Ramsey Hardware building at 221 East Main Street 10 days earlier on October 5, Ichiuji, who was handling the ground level finishing-touch duties, told us.
The wall mural theme is fluffy clouds against a Carolina blue sky at, of all places, Cloud Street’s intersection with East Main Street. And while the cloud design was conceived for the location some time ago, Ichiuji said the skyscape “theme of transcendence is especially fitting in these uncertain times when levity and grace are so needed”.
As reported in our earlier exploration of Warren County Project for the Arts efforts to beautify and expand an artistic presence in downtown Front Royal (“New ‘Dining’, ‘Shop’, ‘Walking Mall’ banners portend more public art on the horizon”), those efforts have now been linked to the Town’s post-pandemic emergency management closing’s weekend walking mall experiment and Community Development Block Grant-enabled downtown façade improvements.
However, Ichiuji told us that as both a member of the Arts Project and owner of the building she had not sought grant funding to avoid any potential conflict of interest. The Cloud Street wall mural project was self-funded by Ichiuji and her husband to kick off this portion of the WCPA public arts initiative.
While she has had an art studio in the rear portions of the building for several years, her plan is to open the front of the building as an art gallery by the spring of 2021. But until then, come rain, shine or snow, the cloud-bearing Cloud Street side of her building will serve as a reminder of things to come on the inside.
But if a picture is worth a thousand words, how many must a wall mural of this size be worth? Enjoy the view when you are in downtown Front Royal and with these final images of the Warren County Project for the Arts creative process at work.
And these images of the finished project and its inspiration:
Warren County EDA reaches bank agreement on McDonald parcel, moves C-CAP rental forward among other actions in final meeting of 2021
The Board of Directors of the Front Royal and Warren County Economic Development Authority (EDA) held the combined November and December meeting via Zoom. All Board members attended the meeting.
The Board adopted two resolutions. One resolution to approve C-CAP using Suite C located at the EDA office building to store food for distribution. The use of Suite C is at no cost to the organization while it transitions to a lease in Suite B and C-CAP will provide evidence of an insurance policy to cover the use of Suite C. The EDA and C-CAP will negotiate the terms of a lease on Suite B and possibly Suite C at the Kendrick office location at an agreed rental rate.
The second resolution authorizes the EDA Chair and Treasurer to finalize details of an agreement with Atlantic Union Bank where it gives up its claim in the Jennifer McDonald bankruptcy and the EDA will release its claim on the property formerly owned by “Little Rugratz” on Virginia Avenue. The existing bank loan is more than the value of the property and the release of the EDA claim allows the bank to sell the property. In return, by the bank releasing its claim in the bankruptcy, the EDA can recover a higher percentage of the recovery from the McDonald bankruptcy and save money in attorneys’ fees.
The Board is working with Public Works to address the maintenance issues at the Kendrick Lane building including HVAC repairs and installation of water shut-off valves.
The EDA and County are working on soliciting bids for appraising all the EDA properties. The first priority is the Baugh Drive building.
Chair Jeff Browne updated the board on Nature’s Touch and the VDOT grant. Scott Jenkins stated all the marketing material for the Commonwealth is updated and was approved by VEDP (Virginia Economic Development Partnership).
Greg Harold presented the final draft of three Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) that will be used as guides for EDA and prospective purchasers of EDA property. He stated the documents were not “static”, but are “living” documents that will be modified as needed. The three SOPs approved are Letters of Intent, Contract Management, and Property Disposition Due Diligence. The documents will be posted on the website by December 15.
The EDA and Warren County are working on a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to govern the transition of EDA’s staff moving to the County payroll and EDA’s role in future economic development in the county. One change beginning immediately is the County will permanently take over receiving and coding EDA bills prior to the EDA Chair and Treasurer approving the expenses.
The EDA Board approved the meeting schedule for 2022 and future meetings will be in person. The next EDA meeting will be on Friday, January 14th at 9 a.m. The location will be posted on the website as well as the remaining dates for 2022.
(From an EDA Press Release of December 5th)
WATCH: Christmas Parade 2021
If you missed the Christmas Parade or want to see it again, sit back and enjoy!
This year the Front Royal/Warren County Chamber of Commerce Christmas Parade was hosted by Mike McCool, Publisher of the Royal Examiner. Thanks to Connor Clark for operating the video camera and the parade sponsor Lindsay Chevrolet.
Winners in this year’s parade are:
Best in Show – Edward Jones
Walking Group – Warren County High School Band
Best Large Float – White Horse Car Wash
Best Small Float – Samuels Public Library
Explore Art & Clay opens on Main Street Front Royal
Explore Art & Clay has opened a gallery at 501 East Main Street in Front Royal. The Gallery features locally handmade pottery, ornaments, mugs, glasswork, plates, paintings, cards, ink work and so much more. Local potters, artists, photographers, and makers work added every day. Love Front Royal? Love Virginia? This is the shop for you!
Student at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School EarlyAct Club collecting canned goods for Salvation Army
For the month of December, the EarlyAct students at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School (EWM) are collecting canned foods (soups, canned meats, etc) for the Salvation Army.
If you have canned foods you would like to donate, please stop by our main office at EWM, and drop off your donations. For any questions, ask for Student Support Coach, and Early Act Faculty Advisor, Michael Williams.
The Early Act Club at E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School is sponsored by The Rotary Club of Warren County. For more information on Rotary and/or InterAct/EarlyAct programs, please e-mail Michael at email@example.com or visit www.rotary.org
Update: ‘Tis the Season for Kindness
(Editor’s note: This story has been updated with photos taken during Shae’s trip to Ecko Studio in Memphis, TN.)
A local singer/songwriter has a message for the world in his debut release starting with the opening lyrics, “Put the kind back in humankind”. “SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” was written by local musician and businessman Shae Parker and recorded in Memphis, TN earlier this year. Parker, who has been playing music semi-professionally for the past three decades is no stranger to helping convey messages. The sign maker and owner of Hanna Sign Company also spent years as a radio broadcaster and as a Front Royal Town Councilman and Vice Mayor.
“I’ve always written songs”, says Parker. “In retrospect, I’ve always helped to convey messages. Whether it was a commercial on the radio, a sign for someone’s business, or as a public servant I’ve always tried to help others convey their message.”
Like many during the pandemic, Parker says he did some soul searching and decided he needed to put his own message out in song. After combing through years of writings and narrowing down a list of about two dozen, he formulated a plan to record as many songs as possible. Shae says he reached out to a childhood friend and fellow former disc jockey, Till Palmer who is the Chief Engineer at Ecko Records in Memphis for help.
“Initially the plan was to take the band with me (River Driven Band), but schedules didn’t align and I realized I either needed to reschedule or refocus on a solo project”, said Parker. “A big part of my pandemic soul searching revolved around doing this before I turned 50, so I headed to Memphis for a solo project”.
Fourteen songs were recorded in Memphis over three days according to Parker, with twelve of those planned for release. Most of the overdubs were handled by Shae before leaving, but he says over the coming months the remaining overdubs will be completed by him and his bandmates from the River Driven Band before being sent back to Palmer for mastering. The other two tracks, “SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” and “SHE LOVES ME, BUT” were independently released in November by Parker on most digital streaming platforms.
“SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” has a message that I felt all humans needed to hear”, explains Parker. “It’s about kindness and how easy it is to just be kind, that’s why I had to put it out first”.
Shae says that independently releasing his music has its own challenges. He says it has been a learning curve from researching and finding a digital distributor to upload the songs to Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube Music among others, to registering songwriting credits with BMI and SESAC.
“There is a reason it’s called the Music Business”, quips Parker. “What is an ISRC number or a DDP? Things like that I didn’t have a clue about as a performer, but Till being in the industry gave me a lot of insight of what needed to be done to make this a reality.”
While Parker maintains the music is the best thing to come out of the experience, he is quick to point out the joy of working with a lifelong friend and using a vintage Gibson Les Paul Junior on some tracks that were bought new by Palmer’s grandfather, Ralph Palmer in 1956. He also finds irony in his and Palmer’s past on radio given that a fellow DJ, Rick Dee’s recorded his number one hit “DISCO DUCK” in the same studio in the 1970s. Parker also recounts that his nickname at 4H camp growing up (where he and Palmer first met) was Duckie. Irony indeed, however despite a good beat you can dance to any other similarities in the compositions end there as Parker’s message of kindness prevails.
The Daily Planet/Shoe Productions studio was built by STAX Records founder Jim Stewart and Bobby Manuel (Booker T & the MG’s) shortly after the shuttering of STAX in 1975. In 1995 John Ward bought the studio and changed the name to Ecko Studios/Records, an American Blues and Soul Blues label that has released albums by Rufus Thomas, Ollie Nightingale, Bill Coday, Barbara Carr, and others.
Shae Parker’s first two releases “SAVE THE HUMANS TOO” and “SHE LOVES ME, BUT” are available on all streaming platforms or wherever you listen to music. Links to the songs and information on booking can be found on his website at www.SongsByShae.com.