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Haywood County Mural Honors Factory Workers

The Layoff. Pete Doyle, artist

By Gina Malone

It was Oscar Wilde who said, “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.”

When Pete Doyle, of Maggie Valley, began work on an indoor mural for BearWaters Brewing Company’s Waynesville location, his focus was on the Dayco rubber plant, once one of the largest employers in Haywood County. Doyle began painting the 20’ x 45’ mural in September, 2022, and finished in February. In early March, news broke about the intended closing by Pactiv Evergreen of Canton’s paper mill.

BearWaters owners Art O’Neil and Kevin Sandefur call their newest Haywood County location—there are breweries also in Maggie Valley and Canton—The Warehouse because its 10,000 square feet once served as a storage facility for Dayco, which closed in 1998.

Detail from The Layoff. Pete Doyle, artist

A Pennsylvania native, Doyle began work on the mural as a way of recording that long-ago layoff of Dayco workers. “I went to the San Francisco Institute, and it had murals by Diego Rivera, and I really got into murals,” he says. When he conceived of The Layoff and began work on it, he was also tapping into his own past. “When I was working, with a family, and being an artist, I worked in factories where we got fired,” Doyle says. “It’s very hard for a young family.”

While in Philadelphia, Doyle shared his love of art, founding the non-profit Ogontz Avenue Art Company which taught mural painting, fine and graphic arts and computer literacy to at-risk youth. In turn, those kids influenced him artistically. “I learned more on the streets of North Philadelphia than at the art schools I attended,” he says.

Doyle structured the BearWaters mural with a nod to Rivera’s The Detroit Industry murals, completed during the Depression.

“Rivera was mesmerized by the machinery and sheer size of the Ford Motor Company,” Doyle says. “He had great faith that the industrial workers were the agents of ‘the revolutionary transformation of society.’ The message in The Layoff is quite different.

Detail from The Layoff. Pete Doyle, artist

Where Rivera saw the advances in technology and industry as a means to a glorious end for the workers, The Layoff depicts what actually happens when a feeder factory to the Ford Motor Company loses its tax breaks and is not upgraded. The factory becomes obsolete while the workers become older (and expendable) and health care and wages are not keeping up with the profits of the company. The plant is shut down.”

The Layoff does, however, convey hope in its depiction of the mountains that lie beyond the factory. “There is always a path when your world crashes around you,” Doyle says. “The Layoff is tribute to the many workers who lost their jobs at Dayco, but still found themselves in one of the most beautiful places in America.”

O’Neil says that keeping the warehouse look, complete with numbered beams, was in their plans when he and Sandefur decided to turn the derelict building into a brewery. Doyle was painting the logo on the building’s exterior when he envisioned what could be done inside as well. “When we got it all cleared out and he was painting and talked about this wall, we said ‘do what you’re inspired to do, making it a tribute to a time period and to the workers,’” O’Neil says. “We’re incredibly fortunate to have his work on our wall.”

BearWaters Brewing Company, Waynesville, is located at 1940 South Main Street. Learn more about Pete Doyle and his art at See more of his murals at Mud Dabbers Pottery & Crafts, 20767 Great Smoky Mountains Expressway, Waynesville.

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