John Shoneman

Artist John Shoneman with "The Unity Bell," which has been temporarily installed in the Cool Spring Downtown District of Fayetteville. Shoneman is from Efland.

The Cool Spring Downtown District worked in collaboration with the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County’s staff to install “The Unity Bell”—a new, temporary art installation—on an art pad at the corner of Hay and Green streets on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Artist John Shoneman, who hails from Efland, designed the interactive, 8-foot-tall piece that was made from approximately 10 different recycled and reclaimed materials, for the downtown community, its residents and visitors to experience.

As part of its ongoing objective to position downtown as a viable arts-and-entertainment district, Cool Spring’s Chief Executive Officer, Bianca Shoneman, has continued to seek opportunities to host virtual and pop-up artist events and to bring temporary art installations to downtown’s footprint. John Shoneman is Bianca Shoneman’s father-in-law.

The organization’s various efforts over the past year have included Art Alley, showcasing the work of renowned N.C. artist Richard Wilson; Avenue of Quotes, a series of 35 inspirational quotes on temporary stickers placed throughout downtown’s thoroughfares; Virtual 4th Fridays, Couch Sessions, and Holiday Buskers, all of which have showcased local artists and/or musicians; “Prismatica,” a globe-traveling art exhibit of 25 prisms spread throughout downtown; and more.

On a recent visit to her husband’s family’s home, Bianca Shoneman asked her father-in-law to show her his newest artwork. He pointed out the “The Unity Bell.” He explained to her how he had sourced the different materials — including a steel gong, gas cylinder, metal disks, and chains—from local scrap metal yards, recycling plants, and even friends. He then designed the installation and had his friend and artistic collaborator, Todd Fein, weld the pieces together.

John Shoneman said he considers “The Unity Bell” to be a very symbolic piece of art: “Traditionally, bells have been used as a means of notification. They provide the soundtrack to our collective history. They call us to wake, to pray, to work, to feast, and in times of crisis, to join together. They call out for our celebrations and toll sadly for our grief.”

John Shoneman’s journey from dishwasher to self-taught carpenter and builder to construction company owner to craftsman and artist was documented in a 2017 article in the The News of Orange County. In Hillsborough, Shoneman is known as the man who “has touched practically every historical house,” restoring old buildings and homes, block by block, throughout the town over the course of 30 years.

Today, Shoneman is retired from his construction business, but he spends much of his free time designing art pieces from salvaged materials. With this particular work, Shoneman intended for it to be an interactive piece. A rubber mallet is attached to it for people to strike the bell that serves as a gong. People can experience the gong not just visually, but aurally, too, as it rings out with a solemn “Om” sound.

While Shoneman expressed his own desire to “not make a political or spiritual statement” with “The Unity Bell,” he also shared, “Above all, bells are majestic, an instrument to access the ‘Sacred’ and the ‘Divine’ in whatever form one chooses. Consider striking this bell as a call to arms, around each other.”

Cool Spring Downtown District invites residents and visitors to come downtown to experience “The Unity Bell” while it is temporarily on display and to tag their pictures of and reactions to this piece on Facebook with @CoolSpringFAY.org or @downtownfayettevilleNC or on Instagram with @coolspringdowntowndistrict or @downtownfayNC.

The Cool Spring Downtown District, Inc. is a charitable, nonprofit corporation formed in 2017 to create and sustain an arts and entertainment district located in downtown Fayetteville, North Carolina, as a vibrant center of artistic, cultural, civic and commercial activity. Learn more at VisitDowntownFayetteville.com.