Looking through the windows, seeing a Lakelands hero
Saturday, May 04, 2013 8:00 PM
Greenwood is truly blessed to have Skip Shelton in its midst.
Shelton, just 90 years young, is so active he makes a 10K runner look sedentary. Seriously, the man does not slow down, not even for festivities celebrating his own birthday. Instead, he serves as emcee, host and entertainer, as evidenced by the past couple of years' birthday parties at the Federal Building.
Artist. Cartoonist. Columnist. Published author. Disc jockey. Motorcycle cop. Corporate pilot. Military pilot. An impressive résumé for a man who, upon meeting you, will make you think you are the one with the multi-faceted and fascinating life story to tell.
Look around Greenwood and chances are you'll see Shelton's work. You might not know it, however. For example, the backs of the buildings that line Main Street's west side, just off Maxwell Avenue, were not the prettiest site when driving into town. No problem. Shelton, the artist, gave the buildings a beautiful facade only months ago. Restaurant owners have called on him as well, cutting him loose to paint murals on their walls. If it's a mural in Greenwood, chances are it's a Shelton masterpiece.
HE TEACHES ART, too, and often has his students assist with big projects, such as his most recent one in which he brought temporary beauty to the old and shuttered Greenwood Mills office building off Kitson.
The building, which was at one point destined for demolition, was given a grace period thanks to a willingness on the part of the City of Greenwood and a financial boost on the part of Palmetto Trust.
Palmetto Trust entered into a partnership with the city in the hopes of one day finding a new tenant for the building as the city works to clean up and, it hopes, find new purpose for the once-thriving mill site that was nothing but an eyesore for several years now.
Securing the building meant its 33 windows would have to be boarded up, but folks - especially those who live nearby and have already endured years of blight - were wanting something a bit more aesthetically pleasing.
Again, up steps Shelton who, along with some of his students, transformed the gaping holes into works of art. Holes that would have been covered with stark plywood boards, are now covered with paintings that actually bring the empty building to life.
There's one depicting a window washer, another with a caricature of a jovial weatherman Al Roker. A baseball appears to be crashing through one window and another seems to give us a peek into a discussion between a mill plant manager and his secretary.NOT EVERYONE HAS AN APPRECIATION for Shelton's work at the mill. Staff writer Chris Trainor's story about the project was online last week and, like just about every story that gets posted online, there were accompanying comments.
One was complimentary of the efforts to preserve the old office building and Shelton's role in keeping the building pleasing to the eyes of those passing by. The other took a shot at Shelton's selection of Roker as a personality in the series of panels.
"Why put Al Roker's face on a window? Why not some hometown heroes, and I don't mean anyone that has to do with the government of Greenwood," the person wrote.
You never know. Maybe word will get out Roker's smiling caricature adorns the old mill office building. Maybe word will get all the way to the "Today" show. Maybe, just maybe, the "Today" show will come to Greenwood. Why not? Charleston's not the only good spot for NBC to land its morning show.
Shelton has a knack for producing stunningly accurate portraits of famous (and not-so-famous) people. Recently, he produced drawings of some of Hollywood's finest, on display and for sale at the Art a la Carte auction at the Federal Building. My youngest daughter, a big fan of Johnny Depp's Capt. Jack Sparrow pirate character, has a Shelton portrait of Depp, in full Sparrow regalia, hanging in her home.
I wrote "not-so-famous" because I was surprised with a gift from Shelton, a portrait of me, also in pirate regalia, and a nod to my involvement in the stage at Greenwood Community Theatre when I played Long John Silver in "Treasure Island." Additionally, behind my office chair is a colorful rendering of The Greenwood Index, the predecessor to the Index-Journal, when it was located along Maxwell Avenue.
THAT COMMENTER WHO WAS SOMEWHAT critical of Shelton's work was right about one thing, however. A hometown hero should be on one of those panels. His name? Skip Shelton. But Shelton wouldn't have put up a portrait of himself.
What this commenter probably doesn't realize is in addition to his sort-of hero status as a person who brings beauty and joy to otherwise drab walls and buildings, Shelton is a genuine hero, a war hero. He piloted the mission that essentially brought World War II to an end. It was the last raid of the war, the bombing of Adolf Hitler's hideout, Bechesgarten.
That's hero enough for me. I just wish I had an ounce of the artistic talent Shelton has. One of those 33 windows at the mill office would be redone with a portrait of him alongside his World War II bomber.
Whiting is executive editor of the Index-Journal. Contact him at 943-2522; email firstname.lastname@example.org ,or follow him on Twitter at IJEDITOR. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper's opinion.