June 20, 2013

Dalton artist talks peacocks

Charles Oliver

— Denise Newton is a carpet designer with some 30 years in graphic arts. But she’d never painted anything before taking on an assignment to paint a peacock for the Dalton Civitan Club.

The peacock is part of Peacocks on Parade, a public art project sponsored by the Downtown Dalton Development Authority (DDDA) that placed 10 peacocks commissioned by private groups downtown.

“When I heard about Peacocks on Parade, I called (DDDA Marketing Director) Veronica French and asked if there was anyone who didn’t have an artist yet,” Newton said. “She put me in touch with the Civitan Club.”

On Wednesday, Newton spoke to club members about the peacock she painted and about how she first got interested in peacocks.

In the early part of the 20th century, U.S. Highway 41 from about the Tennessee state line to Cartersville was known as Peacock Alley because of the colorful bedspreads displayed along the side of the road for sale. Newton said growing up in Dalton she didn’t learn much about that era. But several years ago, a client asked her to design a bath rug with a peacock design. That led her to begin collecting vintage bedspreads and to begin researching how they were made.

She said she now has about 35 of those bedspreads. She brought a few with her and talked about how they were made and how to spot the difference between a handmade bedspread and one manufactured by machine.

Civitan Club President Ron Blaylock said club members decided they wanted their peacock to incorporate the club’s creed as well as Civitan Park, which the club was instrumental in creating.

“I talked to Denise, and we came up with the design,” Blaylock said.

The peacock is 5 feet high, and its tail depicts images from the park and the club’s creed covers the bird’s body. Newton worked each weekend for several months to finish the piece.

The peacocks were installed around downtown Dalton this spring. The Dalton Civitan Club’s peacock stands on Hamilton Street, just outside the old post office that is now the home of the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce and the Carpet and Rug Institute.