This Chapel Hill/Carrboro tribute website would be remiss if there was not an article highlighting our beautiful wall murals. The best part is that you can visit 36 of them in an afternoon, by following this easy Chapel Hill Recorder Mural Walking Tour!
The Chapel Hill/Carrboro area is famous for its numerous murals that brighten up the walls of our local establishments, alleys and parking lots. From the first one painted in 1989 by Michael Brown, entitled “The Blue Mural” to the most recent “Arrows” mural that is on the wall of Glen’s Tattoo and Piercing which was painted last year, these works of art have significantly added to the character of our town, and have become like familiar friends as we pass by them every day. Since most of these murals are painted on outside walls, they are constantly exposed to nature’s elements of sun, rain and wind which degrade the paint over time. Thus, many of our murals are in disrepair and in desperate need of restoration. Fortunately, The Preservation Society of Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill Historical Society, and the Downtown Partnership have come together, along with support from the community, to save the murals through the Painted Walls Project. With funding from this project, four murals have successfully been restored and preserved: “The Blue Mural,” “Musical Youth,” “Parade of Humanity” and “Pencil.” There are many more that need attention. A list of Candidates for Restoration, and more information about this project, can be found on the The Preservation Society of Chapel Hill website. Donations can be made by visiting the CHPS Painted Walls Project Page.
Since there are over thirty murals around town, and some are difficult to find, I have created this fun and easy walking tour below that not only tells you the most efficient route to see them all and where to find them, but also gives you interesting tidbits about the muralists and the murals themselves. Although this is not a comprehensive list, these are all of the murals you can see by walking around downtown Chapel Hill and Carrboro in an afternoon, as of March 2012. The route is approximately three miles, takes about 90 minutes to walk the entire tour, (depending on how fast you walk and how long you stop and admire each mural), and it is completely wheelchair and stroller-friendly. I hope this encourages more people to view these masterpieces in person and to join in the efforts to save them so that they will be enjoyed for many years to come by both Chapel Hillians and visitors. Several of these murals might not be around for long as their buildings are being renovated or demolished, so catch them while you can!
Please Note: The information about the murals below is used with the express permission from the artists themselves, the owners of the buildings where the murals are located, Ernest Dollar from the The Preservation Society of Chapel Hill and Jackie Helvey of Carrboro.com. A few other sources are credited in specific articles. A majority of the murals were painted by Chapel Hill native, UNC alumnus and current resident Michael Brown. He seldom titles his work, so the titles for Brown’s paintings used this article are the most commonly heard ones that Chapel Hillians have given to the murals over the years.
Click on the thumbnails below to jump directly to specific murals or simply scroll down to view them all.
Location: PNC Bank parking lot on North Columbia Street, down the hill from the corner of Franklin Street.
Walking Tour Directions: The Chapel Hill Recorder Mural Walking Tour begins and ends here.
Tidbits: Michael Brown originally wanted to paint dinosaurs on this wall, but the idea was denied by Chapel Hill’s Design Review Board. Turtles were a prehistoric close second, as one of Brown’s favorite animals, and he got the go-ahead. This 30′ x 70′ mural is definitely one of our town’s favorites. Be sure to read the story on the “Pets” mural below, about how a young local artist helped raise money for the restoration of this mural. This mural was restored even more brilliantly than the original in September, 2011.
Location: 109 East Franklin Street, on the North-facing back wall of the building, visible from the public parking lot on the corner of Columbia Street and Rosemary Street.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Sea Turtles” mural, walk uphill toward the corner of Franklin Street and Columbia Street, and you will see this mural in front of you to the left.
Tidbits: This was Michael Brown’s first mural in Chapel Hill, NC. There were so many volunteers that helped to paint this mural that Brown chose a pointillist style of painting and gave everyone the same-sized paintbrush, so that it would have a unified look and feel. This was the first mural restored by the Painted Walls Project in 2009.
Location: 100 East Rosemary Street, on the West side of the Bank of America Building facing a public parking lot.
Walking Tour Directions: Facing “The Blue Mural” turn left. This mural will be right in front of you at the end of the parking lot.
Tidbits: This mural was a donation-based commission by the city, so with every donation received by Robert Humphries, the director of the Downtown Commission, Michael Brown would paint in another person. The bird’s eye view of pedestrians is a playful tribute to the six-story Bank of America building itself, as its proposed height was opposed by many residents before it was built.
Location: 136 East Rosemary Street, Lower Level on the wall that surrounds Back Door CDs.
Walking Tour Directions: Facing the “Walking on the Wall” mural, turn left and walk toward Rosemary Street. Take a hair-pin turn around the wall. This mural will be right around the corner, below street level.
Tidbits: Michael Brown was hired by Second Foundation Bookstore owner Dan Breen to translate a black and white illustration from a page in a comic book into a full-color wall mural. Two teenage vandals were assigned by the Court to help Brown paint this mural, as part of their sentencing, but they skipped town before they finished their required hours and Brown had to complete the job himself.
Location: 150 East Rosemary Street, Wallace Parking Deck interior walls.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Super Heroes” mural, keep walking East down Rosemary Street and enter the parking deck wherever you please. These cave drawings can be found on many of the interior walls in the light wells.
Tidbits: When asked by Town Manager Cal Horton to make the parking deck look less cavernous so residents felt more comfortable parking there, Michael Brown decided instead to exploit its cave-like reputation, and painted murals that resemble the prehistoric cave paintings found at Lascaux, in France and many other ancient civilizations. As one testament to the success of Brown’s cave concept, this parking deck is now usually full of cars.
Location: 150 East Rosemary Street, Amber Alley, on the North side of The Rathskeller Restaurant and surrounding buildings.
Walking Tour Directions: Walk south from Wallace Parking Deck towards Franklin Street. Or for a better view of the entire necklace, walk upstairs to the Commons Area of the Wallace Parking Deck. You will see the Michael Brown’s long amber bead necklace mural strung all around the back of these maroon-painted buildings.
Tidbits: After seeing the movie “Jurassic Park” with his son, Michael Brown got the idea of using amber beads for this mural, and “preserved” Chapel Hill icons within them, like Dean Smith, The Old Well, The Bell Tower and Ramses. Many insects are also represented, characteristic of real amber. Be sure to get a close look, as these details are amazing.
Location: 100 Henderson Street, along the retaining wall of the Post Office and Courthouse.
Walking Tour Directions: With your back to the “Amber Alley” mural, walk back out to Rosemary Street and take a right. Take another right on Henderson Street and “Pencil” will be on the wall on your right.
Tidbits: Originally, Michael Brown wanted to paint a 100-foot long chameleon along this wall, but his request was denied by Chapel Hill’s Appearance Commission as being too scary and inappropriate. Then the idea of painting a pencil struck him when his own pencil rolled across various other sketch ideas he was working on for this mural. That is how the Pop Art, 140-foot pencil mural was born. The words “Is mightier than the sword” are intentionally written upside down to avoid any conflict with the signage ordinance of the Town of Chapel Hill.
Location: 179 East Franklin Street, the interior walls of The Chapel Hill Post Office and Courthouse.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Pencil” mural, walk toward Franklin Street and the Courthouse/Post Office will be on the corner. You will see this mural straight ahead as you enter the building and walk down the right side, toward the service windows of the Post Office.
Tidbits: The Town of Chapel Hill commissioned this mural in celebration of the town’s Bicentennial celebration of its founding, and Michael Brown was asked to paint it in the style of famous muralist Dean Cornwell, who painted the other mural in this building, which was intimidating to say the least. But Brown was up for the challenge and used his brother to pose for all of the figures, men and women, except one. Chapel Hill Native and local celebrity Kemp Battle Nye posed as The Auctioneer for this mural.
Location: 179 East Franklin Street, the interior walls of The Chapel Hill Post Office and Courthouse.
Walking Tour Directions: This mural is above an interior doorway, directly to the left as you enter the building.
Tidbits: Dean Cornwell was known as the “Dean of Illustration” and was a famous illustrator for magazines such as Collier’s Weekly and Harper’s Bazaar. According to the Virtual Museum of Carolina History, this mural “depicts the laying of the cornerstone of Old East by William Richardson Davie, ‘Grand Master of Free Masons of North Carolina, Trustee and Commissioner,’ assisted by other commissioners and ‘the Brethren of the Eagle and Independence Lodges.’”
Location: 163 East Franklin Street, interior wall of Franklin Street Pizza & Pasta Restaurant.
Walking Tour Directions: From the Post Office and Courthouse, turn right and walk West on Franklin Street. Enter Franklin Street Pizza & Pasta on your right, and you will see the mural along the right wall.
Tidbits: Restaurant owners Craig and Amy Samuels commissioned Mary McCarthy to paint this mural of a street scene after they relocated their restaurant from New York City to Franklin Street, Chapel Hill. The shops represent their childrens’ favorite things: animals, flowers, video games and books, and the numbers of the shops are the dates of their childrens’ birthdays. If you want to see this beautiful mural, you’d better hurry. After 18 years on Franklin Street, the Samuels sold their restaurant in 2012 to Glen Gordon and Christopher Mann, owner’s of Tomato Jake’s, and they will be renovating the place and repainting it in a UNC theme to attract students.
Location: 137 East Franklin Street, inside the Bank of America Building (Originally NCNB Plaza).
Walking Tour Directions: Keep walking West down Franklin Street and enter the Bank of America Building on your right. The mural is painted on the four panels along the left wall, all the way down the walk-through.
Tidbits: Earle Thompson, a graduate of the UNC Art Department, and Raines Thompson, a graduate of UNC’s Journalism School were commissioned to paint this mural by building owner Manning Outen. The four panels depict Franklin Street during four different times of day: morning, noon, afternoon and night, and include many Franklin Street landmarks and familiar local characters, like the wonderful Flower Ladies that used to sell flowers along this very walk-through. It is literally a snapshot of the people and places that were on Franklin Street during the time of the painting, as Earle and Raines took Polaroids of the people around them as they were painting, to be used as models in the mural.
Location: 121 East Franklin Street, on the alley between Light Years and Chapel Hill Sportswear.
Walking Tour Directions: Take a right from the Bank of America Building and keep walking West on Franklin Street, passed the Varsity Theatre. The alley will be on your right, and the mural is painted on both sides.
Tidbits: This mural was commissioned by the town to discourage graffiti artists from tagging the alleyway, since Michael Brown’s murals are rarely vandalized. It was painted by student volunteers under the direction of Brown, so the concept had to be simple. It began as a Carolina Blue daytime sky on the West Side and a Duke Blue nighttime sky on the East side, symbolizing the big rivalry between the two schools The interlocking jigsaw puzzle pieces painted on top speak of this interconnected relationship. Brown also encouraged his student painters to paint puzzle pieces all over town, so keep an eye out for them!
Location: 138 East Franklin Street, all the way down Porthole Alley, on the West wall of the Carolina Coffee Shop.
Walking Tour Directions: Cross the street at the Bank of America crosswalk, towards the Carolina Coffee Shop. Look left, and you will see the mural on the West wall of the restaurant.
Tidbits: This mural was influenced by the circus parade wood carvings from The Circus Room, a soda fountain shop that was once on the UNC campus that Michael Brown frequented as a boy. He retained the parade concept, but instead of using circus animals, he used a mix Chapel Hill symbols, local inside jokes, friends and ideas given to him from people passing by as he painted. Chapel Hill native, auctioneer and Weaver Street Realty realtor Don Basnight is the man wearing the #22 shirt carrying a bucket with a hole in it. Brown would love to be able to paint spectators watching the parade on the other side of Porthole Alley someday. This mural was restored through the Painted Walls Project by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Location: 419 West Franklin Street, the East wall of the old Yate’s Motor Company building.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Parade” mural, walk West on Franklin Street, all the way past the 411 West restaurant. You will see it on the opposite wall of the public parking lot.
Tidbits: This was Michael Brown’s third mural in Chapel Hill, NC, and one of his favorites. Brown actually had to buy a car from Mr. Yates in order to convince him to use his wall for the mural. There were Lombardi poplar trees lining the wall, and rather than cut them down so he could paint the mural much easier, Brown chose a tree theme for this mural as a tribute to them, and literally climbed up the trees and painted while clinging to the branches. Therefore, I think this mural should be titled, “Trees Painted from Trees,” though those poplars have since been removed. This six-paneled mural is in extreme disrepair as the roof of the building leaks and has washed away most of it. The Yates Building is also scheduled for demolition in the near future, so definitely make a point to see this mural one last time before it is gone. Faded or not, they are still beautiful works of art.
Update: This mural was painted over with black paint in May of 2013, as part of Lantern Restaurant’s renovations that expanded into the previous Studio Supply space. Our community is saddened to see it go.
Previous Location: 421 West Franklin Street, on the East wall of Studio Supply.
Walking Tour Directions: Walk just one storefront West from the Trees & Seasons mural, past the Yates Building. You can’t miss this brilliant mural, painted on the East side wall of Studio Supply.
Tidbits: This mural was sponsored by the Downtown Commission and this was the first that Michael Brown painted without the help of student volunteers. Therefore he was able to paint something more technically complicated and so he chose realistic human figures as the subject matter. Originally, the boy was playing the violin on his right shoulder, which made for a more balanced composition. When a passerby mentioned to him that there were no left-handed violins, Brown felt compelled to repaint it correctly. The boy in this mural always reminds me of Daniel, who as a child played amazing violin on Franklin Street and at the Apple Chill street festivals during the 1970′s.
Location: 422 West Franklin Street, the West wall of Chapel Hill Cleaners.
Walking Tour Directions: Simply cross the street. I recommend using the nearby crosswalk, as jaywalking is especially dangerous on West Franklin Street.
Tidbits: This was Michael Brown’s second mural in Chapel Hill, NC. Michael is known for changing his painting style for every mural to keep them interesting, so he wanted to paint something more abstract than his first one called, “The Blue Mural.” About 50 elementary school children were going to help him paint this one, so he decided to take advantage of all those little hands and simply have them make hand prints all over the mural. Michael also solicited hands from the childrens’ parents, and many people passing by, including a Carolina basketball player and several local officials. Although you can see this mural easily from the other side of the street, I suggest getting a closer look because, although faded, the handprint details in the hands are really fun to see up close.
Location: 462 West Franklin Street, on the West wall of the old Avid Reader building, now West End Public.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Hands” mural, continue walking West on Franklin Street, toward Carrboro. The mural will be on the West wall of West End Public.
Tidbits: The historical feel of this mural makes it a local favorite. According to Michael Brown, he added in the Dewey button because Chapel Hill was the only town in all of North Carolina that voted for Dewey and not Truman in the Presidential election of 1948. Even back then, Chapel Hill was making a stance by not following the rest of the state politically. This mural was almost painted over about ten years ago when a club called Mansion 462 moved into the building, and the owner did not think it went with their decor. Fortunately, local residents strongly suggested he wait to repaint it, citing how many residents would be upset if it was removed. Thankfully, he delayed repainting the wall, and just 18 months later, Mansion 462 went out of business and the mural still remains.
Location: 501 West Franklin Street, on the back walls of the Chapel Hill Orange County Visitors Bureau.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Postcards” mural, cross the street and keep walking along West Franklin Street toward Carrboro. When you arrive at the Chapel Hill Orange County Visitors Bureau, walk around to the back of the building and you will see the beautiful dogwood flowers of Michael Brown. If you enter the building through the back door, you will see even more dogwoods painted down the long hallway to the door.
Tidbits: This was one of Michael Brown’s recent murals, commissioned by the Chapel Hill Orange County Visitors Bureau. This mural was painted in three stages. Originally it was just dogwood flowers painted with the red brick showing through. Then Brown came back and painted in the background green. Finally, he painted even more dogwood blossoms down the hallway leading to the back door during the summer of 2011.
Location: 111 South Merritt Mill Road, on the North wall of Miss Molly’s Gift Shop & Walt’s Grill.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Dogwoods” mural, keep walking West down Franklin Street and then take a left on South Merritt Mill Road. You will be able to see this colorful mural from Franklin Street, and the walk up to the mural is about 200 feet ahead on the left.
Tidbits: Patchwork quilting was Michael Browns’ inspiration for this mural. He also had several partially used cans of paint left over from all the previous murals that he wanted to use up. Once the square grid was drawn, Brown’s volunteer painters were allowed to mix their own colors and add their square of color wherever they wanted on the wall, creating a dizzying, random display of large color pixels.
Location: 414 East Main Street, right where Chapel Hill and Carrboro meet, on the walls of Carolina Car Wash & Detail.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Quilts” mural, walk back to West Franklin Street. Keep walking down West Franklin Street and as soon as the street turns into East Main Street in Carrboro, you will see the mural covering the Carolina Car Wash building on your left.
Tidbits: This mural was commissioned by building owner Tom Tucker. At the time, he had owned the business for about two years, and wanted to spruce up the blank, brick walls. Mr. Tucker met UNC alumnus and local fine artist Babatola (“Tola”) Oguntoyinbo through a mutual friend, and Tola suggested painting a large ocean-scape all over the building. Mr. Tucker loved that idea and gave him the job.
Location: 405 East Main Street, on the East wall of Gates of Beauty Body Shop.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Carolina Car Wash” mural, cross the street and walk West towards downtown Carrboro. The Gates of Beauty Body Shop will be on your right.
Tidbits: Michael Brown met Mr. Brother Peacemaker, owner of Gates of Beauty Body Shop, many years ago. Brown and some mechanic friends, including Mr. Peacemaker, wanted to jazz up the Chapel Hill/Carrboro Christmas parade by building gigantic floats each year. One year they built a huge dinosaur, but the most memorable one was a 40′ long, 14′ tall bright green tobacco worm. Inside the caterpillar-looking float were rows of bicycles welded together, ridden by friends. This gave the float incredible mobility and the worm could suddenly turn towards the crowd and then quickly turn back into the parade again, thrilling spectators. Later, Mr. Peacemaker approached Brown about painting his portrait on the side of his Body Shop building. Brown has a bad habit of denting up his cars, so he traded the mural for bodywork to get all the dings out. Ten years ago, Brown restored this wonderful mural, adding a few more gray hairs to the temples of Mr. Peacemaker’s portrait.
Location: 300-G East Main Street, on the left front wall of The ArtsCenter.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Gates of Beauty Body Shop” mural, cross the street and keep walking towards downtown Carrboro. This mural is on the far left corner wall of The ArtsCenter’s Digital Studio classroom.
Tidbits: This was a weekend project commissioned by the ArtsCenter. All current art students of The ArtsCenter were invited to participate in the painting of this mural and it was art directed by Michael Brown. Because the painting skill levels of the fifteen volunteers varied greatly, Brown chose to paint Lombardi poplars with lots of leaves, simple birds in flight and clouds. The mural was completed in just two days. Because it has faded significantly over time, current Director of Operations at The ArtsCenter Brad Porter would like to give this wall a facelift by 2013, so be sure to take a gander at this impressionist mural before it is replaced.
Location: 208 East Main Street, on the front wall by the entrance to the WCOM radio station.
Walking Tour Directions: While facing the “ArtsCenter” mural, walk down the parking lot to the right towards the Cat’s Cradle. This mural will be at the end of the parking lot, right in front of you.
Tidbits: David Sovero is a very talented local artist and jewelry maker based in Hillsborough, NC. He arrived in the United States in 2001 from Peru, S.A. and he brought the vibrant colors of his culture with him to brighten up this cinder block wall of the WCOM radio station. Sovero is also a DJ for WCOM, and hosts a wonderful Peruvian music show on Friday afternoons.
Location: 105 East Main Street, on the East wall of A Remix Art Gallery by Jeanmarie.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “WCOM” mural, keep walking down East Main Street into downtown Carrboro. You will see this mural across the street on the side of the building that is behind the triangular Spotted Dog restaurant. Cross the street at the Bank of America Building crosswalk to get a closer look. (But first look both ways, as cars seldom stop for pedestrians here.)
Tidbits: This mural was commissioned by the owner of Jade Palace restaurant, which is on the West corner of this building, and was originally painted by Stewart on both sides of the building. Christmas lights, that look like fishing nets from a distance, are strung over it, and between them a water spigot is suspending an old flower pot. These modern additions are strangely appropriate in this antiquated looking fishing village landscape.
Location: 103 East Main Street, on the West wall of the Jade Palace restaurant.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Fishing Village” mural, walk just past Jade Palace restaurant. This mural is on the right, along the West side of the restaurant, facing a police car parking lot.
Tidbits: This particular wall of Carrboro has a lot of controversial history behind it. The mural that replaced Scott Stewart’s mural was originally proposed by Kimberli Matin of Zodi Gallery in 2001. The painting of it was a community-wide event with the theme “What does community mean to me?” and began during the Carrboro Music Festival on September 9, 2002. It was funded by local patrons who could buy a square of space in the mural to paint whatever they wanted there, and the design was overseen by local artist Emily Eve Weinstein. All proceeds were donated to Club Nova, a local non-profit organization that supports emotionally challenged adults. It took a few months to complete, but once finished, this mural did not meet the public signage ordinance established by the Town of Carrboro, as it read more like a billboard of advertisements when it was completed. After months of debate, on May 13, 2003, the Carrboro Board of Alderman decreed that it needed to be modified, specifying that the thirty-two business ads be removed. The revision was completed by volunteers during the Carrboro Music Festival on September 28, 2003. In the place of the ads, a thirty-two-word poem titled “I am Not a Wall” by Patrick Herron was added — one word for each square needing modification. The end result was a beautiful, patchwork quilt of color that brightened up downtown Carrboro for four years. Then one night in May 2007, a former Carrboro resident with an unknown grudge about this particular mural flew into town from California and hired several men from the local homeless shelter to repaint the wall mint green. Then he flew back home without paying the men he hired. The Carrboro community was shocked and saddened to see their beautiful mural disappear overnight, and the wall remained blank for two years. Then in 2009, Weinstein was commissioned again with funding from Strowd Roses, Inc. and the Orange County Arts Commission to repaint the wall. Weinstein designed the rose garden landscape and Chinese Zodiac mural and oversaw the project. The painting was completed by Volunteers for Youth. If you look closely, you can see Herron’s original “I Am Not a Wall” poem written along the top of the mountains in the distance, as a tribute to the original mural that was illegally painted over. More about the original mural and the controversy that followed can be found on Jackie Helvey’s web site: http://www.carrboro.com/mural.
Location: 104 West Main Street, on the East side wall of The Clean Machine.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Roses” mural, keep walking down East Main Street, crossing over North Greensboro Street. It will turn into West Main Street, and in a block right past Cliff’s Meat Market, this mural will be in front of you, on your right.
Tidbits: The mural was commissioned by Nathan Mills, the property manager of The Clean Machine building. This mural took local artist Casey Robertson about 12 hours to complete, and is painted in the contemporary urban aesthetic style for which he is known. He worked from several sketches but painted it completely freestyle, instead of transferring it from a grid as some muralists do.
Location: 103 West Main Street #C, on the East wall of the Club Nova Thrift Shop.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Girl” mural, cross over to the other side of West Main Street (again, carefully!) and you will see these six mural panels high up on the lavender wall to your right, facing the parking lot.
Tidbits: These six paintings were part of the community Club Nova clubhouse renovation project. Club Nova is a Carrboro-based non-profit that provides support and services for emotionally challenged adults. The brightly-colored murals were designed by Club Nova members and then painted by volunteers.
Location: 105 West Main Street, on the West side of the old Democracy South building.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Club Nova Thrift Shop” murals, walk one more block down West Main Street. Pass #105, and then turn around, as this mural is on the West side of this now boarded up building facing a parking lot.
Tidbits: Renee Porter commissioned the mural from Jim Tuten when she had a shop in that building called Blue Moon Antiques and Collectibles. Porter’s inspiration for the train concept was her own fascination with the early steam engine trains that was instilled in her by her grandfather, Charles Paul Porter, who was a civil engineer who built railways all up and down the East coast in the early to mid-twentieth century. The train theme was also perfect for Carrboro since the town grew up around the train station which the “powers that be” in Chapel Hill decided should be built a healthy distance from campus. Tuten painted it by himself, using clearanced, mis-tinted paint from Lowe’s Home Improvement to keep the cost down. For the inspiration of his design, he found a history book at Town Hall that contained a picture of an early steam engine train that came through Carrboro a hundred years ago. Porter added that the mural is not 100% finished. “It was supposed to include my Jack Russel Terrier, Boris, chasing and barking at the train. Jim never got around to that, but it would have been a fitting tribute to an ornery cuss of a dog that lived to be 18! For a number of years after Blue Moon closed, whenever I visited Carrboro, I would tease Jim, and ask him when he was going to finish it.” As you can see in the photo, a large transformer has been installed over the “Democracy Express” title on the mural, and the mural itself is very faded. The building is also vacant and the windows are boarded up, so the future of this mural is presently unknown. Come see this fun mural while you still can!
Location: 304 West Weaver Street, on the East wall of the Balanced Movement Studio.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Democracy Express” mural, cross back over West Main Street. From here, you can walk straight over to Weaver Street through the Clean Machine parking lot, and then take a left on Weaver Street, or walk further down West Main Street to the stop light and take a right on Weaver Street. This mural is on the North Side of Weaver Street, between Lindsay Street and Oak Avenue.
Tidbits: The story behind this mural is truly inspiring. Young local artist Sadie Rapp wanted to help in the restoration of Michael Brown’s Sea Turtle mural as part of her 8th Grade project at Duke School. She decided to paint a mural herself, and fill it with dogs and cats that local residents and shop owners could “adopt” with a donation of $50 to The Preservation Society of Chapel Hill. Rapp raised $1700, which paid for almost half of the Sea Turtle mural restoration. As a thank you, Michael Brown painted in his own little turtle on the lower right corner of this mural.
Location: 101 Lloyd Street, on the South side of the former El Centro Latino building.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Pets” mural, walk East on Weaver Street, past Weaver Street Market towards Lloyd Street. Cross over the railroad tracks and take an immediate left into the parking lot, before you get to Harper Arts. This mural will be in front of you to the right.
Tidbits: This mural was painted by volunteers for the non-profit organization El Centro Latino, that provided services for the growing Latino community of Carrboro. Almost every brick on the map has a different design or symbol painted on it, so it is definitely worth getting a closer look. There is a large inscription that reads, “We are a Nation of many colors. Somos una Nación de muchos colores.” Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding, El Centro Latino had to close their doors in 2009, but this wonderful mural still stands as a tribute to the contributions they made to our community.
Location: 101 Lloyd Street, on the West side back wall of the old Wootini Gallery, now The Merch.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Nation of Many Colors” mural, walk around the building to the left. This mural will be on the West wall of the same building, to the left of the entrance to The Merch.
Tidbits: This mural was commissioned by Michael Maher and Jessica George, founders of the Wootini Gallery, when Ryan “Evoker” Robidoux was in town from Boston as a exhibitor for their Art Tour show at the gallery. The building owner, Richard Shachtman supports mural painting on his walls, so getting his approval was easy. Upon his arrival for the show, they asked Evoker if he would be interested in painting part of the building on opening night, and he gladly agreed. There was no concept given to him by the gallery, so he had free reign to create whatever he wanted. Evoker just showed up with a loose sketch and went from there. Originally he assumed that he could paint the mural in under the three hours during the opening. Maher pointed out a street light above where he was working, which should have come on to let him continue working as it got darker. Unfortunately, that light was the only street light that did not come on, so he had to return the next day to complete it. It was ridiculously hot and the local bugs were out in full-force, trying desperately to get a sip of his beer, but he finished it in spite of these Southern hardships, and was pleased by the way it turned out. He really enjoyed painting in front of the crowd at the exhibition opening. Everyone was really excited to have him there and he even had some local kids help him paint parts of the mural. Evoker loved the energy of Carrboro, NC so much, he actually ended up moving here soon after this mural was painted, and lived here a while!
Location: 708 West Rosemary Street on the West wall of Don Jose Tienda Mexicana.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Wootini Gallery” mural, walk back to East Main Street and take a left, walking toward Chapel Hill. Where it splits, bear left on Rosemary Street. This mural will be facing you on the left.
Tidbits: John Demos was the owner of a Greek restaurant named Marathon that used to be in this location. He commissioned Michael Brown to decorate the outside wall as well as the inside of his restaurant. Because of the Town of Chapel Hill’s sign ordinance, Michael was not allowed to paint the word “Marathon,” so he decided instead to paint a graphical representation of an ancient Greek marathon, which was inspired from the red and black Greek pottery on display at the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. The idea of putting it on a broken plate came from the Greek tradition of smashing plates during celebrations and the fragments from that made painting the mural around the many small windows on that wall a lot easier. Mr. Demos, who now owns Captain John’s Dockside Seafood & Crabhouse in Chatham County, recently used his own money to have Brown restore this mural, even though his restaurant is no longer there. Our town thanks you for your generosity, Mr. Demos!
Location: 709 West Rosemary Street, on the West wall of Glenn’s Tattoo Service, Inc.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Marathon” mural, cross West Rosemary Street and walk a few steps to the left, and you will see this mural as you pass Carrburritos on the right, on the West wall of Glenn’s Tattoo shop.
Tidbits: This mural came about after Casey Robertson asked Step Edwards, the owner of the Midway Building, to let him paint a mural on that wall. It took about ten hours to complete the painting, and according to Casey, “A couple of late week nights after tucking my 2.5 year old into bed.” The urbanesque style of Robertson’s flying arrows is an appropriate accompaniment for a building that houses tattoo artists.
Location: 216 North Roberson Street, on various walls of The Hargraves Community Center and Park.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Arrows” mural, cross the street and keep walking down West Rosemary Street. Take a left on North Roberson Street. The Hargraves Community Center will be down on the right, and these five murals are installed by the entrances to the Community Center, the Clark Pool and the Northside Gym.
Tidbits: According to the Town of Chapel Hill website, each of these five 7′ x 14′ murals “presents a history of the Center’s community and political leaders, its central role in the Northside neighborhood, and its significance as the first social and recreational facility for African-Americans in Chapel Hill. The works formally recognize the individuals and activities of the Center since its inception. The panels, first painted as murals of 18 x 24 inches, were digitally photographed and enlarged; lamination was applied to the works to withstand the extreme weather conditions of the southeast. Wilson’s work displays a particular sensibility to the traditional values of family, religion, and relationships in the African-American community.” Dorothy Fearington, also known as Mama Dot, is one of the people featured in this particular mural. She has worked for the Hargraves Community Center for over 40 years, cooking and caring for the children, and is the woman wearing a green dress, in the small group school picture, all the way in the back, third from the left.
Location: 305 West Rosemary Street, on the exterior walls of Pantana Bob’s restaurant.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Hargraves” mural, keep walking East down West Rosemary Street. You will see this mural in front of you as you approach Pantana Bob’s on the left.
Tidbits: This was Michael Brown’s last mural that he painted as part of the yearly Mural Project sponsored by Chapel Hill’s Downtown Commission. The figures painting this mural in the mural are a tribute to the many student volunteer painters that Brown worked with over the 18 years that he painted murals around town. It is unfinished because Brown did not want the Mural Project to end, and it gives the viewer insight to the grid and “paint-by-numbers” coloring process that Brown used when painting these wall murals. Even more numbers are added to the mural from the numbers on the football jerseys and numbers on the football field.
Location: 108 West Rosemary Street, on the West wall of Syd’s Hair Shop.
Walking Tour Directions: From the “Paint-by-Numbers” mural, keep walking East on West Rosemary Street. This mural will be straight ahead on the West wall of Syd’s Hair Shop. This is the last mural on the walking tour. From here, keep walking down West Rosemary Street and you will be right back at the “Sea Turtles” mural as you approach North Columbia Street.
Tidbits: This is one of Michael Brown’s favorite murals, though he is somewhat discouraged that no one really understands the philosophical meaning behind it. If this one is eventually restored, and it is on the list of candidates since it is so faded, Brown would like to add a Haiku poem to the mural somewhere to better explain his concept of the “Many Earths” represented in this mural. Hopefully, this is incentive enough for it to be restored.
Donations to help preserve the murals can be made by visiting the CHPS Painted Walls Project Donate Page.