The City of Kannapolis has received two special gifts. The estate of Dr. Harold Cook and Lynne and Wally Safrit have donated funds to purchase two pieces of sculpture. Both sculptures have been placed on West Avenue as part of the new streetscape.
North Carolina artist Tom Risser created both pieces using stainless steel. “The Dancers,” was donated by the late Dr. Harold Cook. The eight-foot-tall sculpture captures two people dancing and it is located near the intersection of West Avenue and Laureate Way.
Lynne and Wally Safrit have donated a sculpture entitled, “Releve,” which means “To Rise”. In ballet “Releve” is one of the seven dance movements. This ten-foot-tall piece beautifully captures the fluid movements of a person dancing. It is located at the West A and West Avenue intersection.
These two sculptures are the first pieces of public art in downtown Kannapolis. Two other sculptures by Risser have also been added to the West Avenue streetscape, “Smiley,” on loan from the artist, and “Complex It.”
These two pieces are also made of stainless steel that has been purposefully aged by the artist. Both are whimsical and fun. They are located close to the intersection of West Avenue and Vance Street. At eight feet, “Smiley” is sure to be an Instagram favorite with children and adults alike. “Complex It” is ten feet tall and has brilliantly colored panels which are meant to capture the sun’s rays.
Dr. Harold Cook
Dr. Harold Lee Cook, a native of Kannapolis, passed away in 2012, and left instructions with his family to honor the City he loved with a monetary gift. “Harold loved Kannapolis. He was glad to see the North Carolina Research Campus finished before his death. He loved that the City was coming alive again following the closure of the mill and as a public health professional he was excited about the research underway on the campus. He wanted to do something to help with the rebirth of Kannapolis,” his cousin, Cindy Calvert, commented. “He loved so many things and one of them was art so we decided the gift should be a piece of art for everyone to enjoy.”
Harold’s mother and father had worked at Cannon Mills, but Harold took a different path. After his graduation, from A.L. Brown High School where he excelled academically, he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he earned his bachelor’s degree in English. He came back to Cabarrus County to teach elementary school before returning to UNC-CH and completing a master’s degree in Social Work.
Harold went on to earn doctorates from UNC-CH in public health and philosophy. His career was spent as a medical researcher at various rehabilitation centers and as a research assistant and adjunct research assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He published several papers on his work including patients’ recovery from traumatic injuries, reactions to disability; the effectiveness of self-help groups, trends in programs that assist adult burn victims; continuing education programs for occupational and physical therapists treating arthritis and alternative and conventional arthritis remedy uses in rural adults with arthritis.
He served on the Committee on Organization and Delivery of Burn Care for the American Burn Association, the Executive Committee of the Multipurpose Arthritic Center at UNC-CH and was a technical advisor for the North Carolina Arthritis Program.
After he retired he returned to Kannapolis to care for his mother. He was a member of New Gilead Reformed United Church of Christ and a volunteer for Meals on Wheels and the Cabarrus County Library.
“Harold was a lifelong learner. Until his health declined he wanted to always try new things, learn new things. He was always taking continuing education classes, participating in a book club, going to new restaurants, concerts and exercising. He was a wonderful man who is missed by his family,” Cindy said.
Lynne and Wally Safrit
The Safrits are natives of Kannapolis. Both have had very distinguished careers in the City. Lynne served as president of Atlantic & American Properties and Castle &Cooke North Carolina for 30 years. Wally has been the attorney for the City of Kannapolis for 35 years.
“We love the city and the people of Kannapolis. When we saw this sculpture, we thought of Kannapolis. She reflects the mood of our City. Our city and this downtown are rising from where we have been and she reflects this “releve” movement perfectly,’ commented Wally.
“We are grateful to Dr. Cook, Lynne and Wally Safrit and their families for giving us these incredible gifts. Both are beautiful and tie in perfectly with the new streetscape. We are very appreciative of these thoughtful gestures,” said Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant. “We would also like to thank Tom for his creative sculptures which help bring our street to life. We look forward to sharing them with everyone who visits West Avenue.”
An engineer by day Tom is President of U.S. Bottlers Machinery Company in Charlotte. He is a graduate of Guilford College with a degree in mathematics and engineering and an electrical engineering degree from North Carolina State University.
Twenty years ago, he began taking leftover materials from his company’s products and formed them into sculptures. As a self -taught artist he has experimented with many different types of medium including fused glass, polycarbonate, stone, paintings, shotcrete and photography.
Now an award-winning sculptor you can find his works in many cities, galleries, private collections, and businesses across the United States.
In 2016 he had a heart attack and subsequently heart bypass surgery. Since then he has incorporated hearts into his work. The hearts are sometimes very visible and at other times they are hidden. It has become a signature of his work and can be found in the Kannapolis pieces.
He is also known for his other hobby, skateboarding. He is the creator of many local skateboard facilities including WXW Sk8, The Blair Witch Ramp, Whip Snake Park and Tom’s Bowl. He has been featured on HGTV, Offbeat America, ESPN: Tony Hawk’s Giant Skatepark Tour and Carolina Traveler.
He and his wife, Daisy, live in Marvin and they have a son, Sam, and a daughter, Carson.
If you would like to make a donation for public art to the City of Kannapolis contact Annette Privette Keller, Director of Communications at email@example.com or 704.920.4311.
Tom Risser and Cindy Calvert
Tom Risser with Lynn and Wally Safrit