‘Dreams’ captures spirit of the City of the Arts

by Keith Barber

Local artists Jim and Alisa Keegan pose in front of their mural entitled “Dreams” during an official unveiling ceremony at BB&T Ballpark on June 2. (photo by Keith T. Barber)

For artists Alisa Simonel-Keegan and her husband, Jim, Winston- Salem’s moniker as the City of the Arts and Innovation is much more than a marketing slogan — it’s a call to action.

After more than a year of planning and creating, the Keegans’ vision came to life June 2 with the official unveiling of their latest work, a 8-by-40-foot mural entitled “Dreams” inside BB&T Ballpark.

The triptych depicts two professional baseball players reminiscing about playing stickball in the streets as children and children dreaming of becoming professional ballplayers. Alisa credited her husband with coming up with the mural’s concept, which pays homage to Winston- Salem’s rich baseball history.

Jim Keegan said he and Alisa patterned the style of the uniforms from two former Winston-Salem minor-league teams from the early part of the 20th century.

The Dash organization initially approached the Keegans, both accomplished scenic artists, about creating a piece of public art for the new stadium “before there was grass on the field,” Alisa said.

The mural’s creation is a testament to the strong bond between area businesses and the Winston-Salem arts community, Alisa said. The Keegans received a regional artist project grant from the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County as well as generous donations from the Winston-Salem Dash, Lowes Home Improvement and Smith Phillips Building Supply in creating the work.

One of the things we’re really focusing on trying to do is to develop more publicly viewed art in [Winston-Salem],” Alisa said. “It’s sort of taken a village over a couple of years to get this project up and running.”

Now, the Keegans are building their own artistic village. They have reclaimed the old Western Auto building in downtown Winston-Salem and have big plans for the 13,000-square-foot facility.

The “backbone” of the building will be a high-end seafood bar and grill with a “retro dinner club feel,” Alisa said.

“We’re going to develop a center for innovation and design, green innovation and artistic innovation,” she said.

Upstairs, the Mermaid Lounge will offer a first-class performance space.

“That’s the whole premise of it — to make art in all forms as accessible as possible to everyone in Winston-Salem,” Jim said.

The art gallery will feature flexible digital screens as well as exhbition surfaces “so we’ll be able to show art from all over the world,” Alisa said.

The Keegans are working with nearly 3,000 artists from around the globe who will be showing their work digitally.

The renovated space will also serve as a film studio with top-ofthe-line digital filmmaking equipment. The studio space will feature a three-camera setup to allow local filmmakers to produce films more efficiently, Jim said.

The Keegans’ artists village will offer filmmakers with funding and distribution for their projects as well.

“It’s all about educating people and making it accessible,” Jim said. In addition, the film studio will utilize green power. Planned renovations include the installation of 59 solar panels and a number of skylights.

“We will have a sustainable-materials showroom and crews that will operate out of there as a home base, installing green materials in commercial and residential venues,” Alisa said.

A graduate of the UNC School of the Arts, Alisa painted sets and helped create costumes for an opera company in New York beginning in 1983. Jim Keegan, who is also a film producer, studied art in Ireland. The Keegans murals can be seen all over the world from Tokyo, to Ireland to Los Angeles.

Jim said the entire renovation process of the artist village and collaborative will be documented on film and distributed via podcast.

“When we get up and running, we’re going to have 60 employees in this place,” he said. “In two years, bringing more than 120 jobs to downtown Winston-Salem.”

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BB&T Ballpark 951 Ball Park Way Winston-Salem 336.714.2287;