As you enter McMurray Library in Bradshaw Hall, the focal point of the area is the large, tiered mobile sculpture hanging from the ceiling. The color and subtle movement among the levels gives a pleasing feeling to the space. And with most things, there is a story behind it.
The Capel family from Troy was a strong supporter of O’Neal in the early years. North Carolina Artist Bob Timberlake was a close friend of the Capel family and wanted to do something in memory of a family member who had recently passed away. The perfect solution was to award O’Neal with a Timberlake Grant in memorial in 2003.
Mr. and Mrs. Timberlake donated seed money and pieces of art from North Carolina artists to start a permanent collection of North Carolina art at the School. To help build the fund to purchase or commission the artwork, the Timberlakes donated a Timberlake print each year to be included in the School’s annual benefit auction. Proceeds from the item were accumulated into a special account.
One of the stipulations of the grant was that a student committee be appointed to make the selections from North Carolina artists to add to the School’s collection. The students chose Mr. Paul Penny from Holly Springs who crafted copper wind sculptures. In March of 2006, Mr. Penny met with the student committee to get ideas for his sculpture he was commissioned to craft. The student committee was comprised of fifth graders Eugene Zang and Mimi Ke, eighth grader Gray Hodsdon, freshmen Chris Maynor and Christopher Waddell, junior Carolina Cordell and senior Leah Kelly.
In a 2006 article in The Pilot — “When I met with the students and staff of The O’Neal School, I asked them to share with me thoughts about what makes ‘O’Neal different,’” said Penny. “Students talked about the tremendous breadth of academic, athletic, artistic and community involvement activities available to them, and about the broad participation by students in these activities. Administrators and staff talked about the diversity of the student body, the ways the three divisions interact and support one another, the degree of interaction between upper school students and the younger students that you just don’t get in public schools.”
From this conversation, three themes surfaced:
- Diversity – of thought, of students, of activities
- Three Divisions – independent, but mutually supporting
- Change – students, faculty, staff, and the school constantly growing and evolving
With much thought, Penny eventually settled on the design – three copper hoops represent the three divisions – lower, middle, and upper. These tiers move independently yet support one another. While the lower tiers hang from the upper ones, the mass of the lower tiers provides a stabilizing effect on the entire mobile. The sizes of the tiers, and the discs the support, grow from bottom to top, symbolizing the physical and intellectual growth of students and they rise through the divisions. The colors of the spectrum reflect the diversity of the students, faculty, staff and school as a whole. While there is a “primary” motion designed into each tier, each one reacts to the changing air currents in the space and turns in unpredictable ways, sometimes reversing its rotation in relation to the other tiers.
As O’Neal celebrated its 35th year, the mobile sculpture was unveiled at the annual Parents’ Association Picnic (and Founders Day) on September 7, 2006.
Now as O’Neal celebrates 50 years, the mobile sculpture continues to appeal to those who enter its space.
Falcons Fly to 50
O’Neal is excited to share its history with readers as it quickly nears its 50th year in educating and cultivating youth in becoming successful, effective contributors to communities large and small. The official celebration starts school year 2021/2022. This weekly blog will focus on different aspects of the School as it grew through the years. With every entry, there is just as much more information to gather than what is already written. Readers who have been a part of the O’Neal community are encouraged to reach out and share their O’Neal memories. It is with great hope that the efforts of many in contributing information and photography can be published into a book for reflection and reference as the School continues to prosper for the next 50 years.
Please send your memoirs and photos to:
The O’Neal School
c/o Kathy Taylor, Director of Communications
P.O. Box 290
Southern Pines, NC 28388