Communities are engaging local artists to paint NC murals throughout our towns and cities – who are they and where can we find their art?
I can’t remember ever seeing a mural as a kid. When we went to New York City, we saw graffiti on the trains but they weren’t considered a photo op.
Once I moved to Noda in Charlotte, and the area became popular, NC murals started popping up on the side of buildings, and inside breweries, stores and restaurants. My neighbor even commissioned local muralist Scott Nurkin to paint Queen Charlotte on her garage door.
Read More: The Ultimate Guide to NC College Towns
Luckily, the NC mural explosion hasn’t been limited to my neighborhood. Cities and towns across North Carolina are hiring muralists to decorate spaces and tell stories, often transforming the area and making art accessible to everyone. Depending on the theme, the mural may be whimsical, historical or commemorative and even part of a mural trail.
The most popular murals get photographed and posted, raising awareness about places and the people who have made a difference in the community.
Next time you photograph a mural, tag the artist and take the time to find out a little more about what’s behind their work. Here are five North Carolina artists to help you get started:
NC Mural Artists to Watch
Gabriel Eng-Goetz received his bachelor of fine arts from Syracuse University. In addition to painting, he founded RUNAWAY, a clothing company in Durham, in 2011.
Style: “My formula is bold imagery, rich color, subtle symbolism.”
First mural: “Spray painting trains as a teenager. The first official painted mural was for American Underground in downtown Durham in 2019.”
Upcoming projects: A 6000-square-foot mural for Raleigh Iron Works, a mural focused on equity in Asheville for Buncombe County; and mural projects with Duke University, the town of Rolesville, and a new retail and housing development in Raleigh.
A 2013 graduate of Appalachian State University’s BFA program, Britt Flood prefers large-scale projects. Her work may be seen throughout the state.
Style: “I love painting people and imagined portraits, and consider my work to be expressive and gestural. I love using massive brushes and when painting, I try to focus on the spirit or energy of a scene rather than capturing exact small details.”
First mural: “My first large-scale mural is in Flint, Michigan as part of the ‘100 Murals for Flint’ initiative by Flint Public Art. It is a two-story painting titled ‘Adam and Eve.’”
Other work: “Healing is Possible” in downtown Asheboro, commissioned as part of the City of Asheboro’s Mental Health Awareness Week; a bus stop design in Chapel Hill on MLK Jr Blvd, across from Timber Hollow Apartments; and “Piedmont Blues,” near Temple Theatre in Sanford.
Current project: Flood is part of the Uproar Festival of Public Art, a 60-mural installation in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Hillsborough, happening now through August 12. Flood’s “Seeing Through the Fog” may be seen at Eno River Mill in Hillsborough.
Support from family has been a cornerstone to Carla Garrison-Mattos’ evolution as an artist. As a child, her parents encouraged her creativity. In 2018, she dove into being a full-time artist through the support of her wife.
Style: “My painting style can vary depending on what my client is looking for. My go-to style is pop art inspired take on realism. There’s always a bit of funk added to my art; I try not to take my artistic approach too seriously. My favorite subject matter is definitely animals, but I also love to paint food on a large scale. I use a combination of wall paint and spray paint, and I am definitely partial to a bolder color palette.”
First mural: “My very first mural was one that had to be immediately painted over upon completion. I painted the imagery from the CAVU beer can on the wall near the bathroom at Noda Brewing Company. As soon as I finished it, we were informed that the artist who had initially designed the CAVU can had a stipulation in his contract that the imagery could not be used on anything other than the can. So I painted my second mural directly over the CAVU one and now it is the design from the COCO LOCO beer can instead.”
Other work: Gilde Brewery in Charlotte’s Lower South End features Queen Charlotte and a rooster; Harry the Sasquatch from “Harry and the Hendersons” at Pharr Mill Brewing & BBQ in Harrisburg; and one at Pilot Brewing Company in Charlotte.
Upcoming project: United Sport Solutions in Cornelius
Rachel Rowse has been creating and exhibiting art around the Southeast for the past five years. She’s a 2018 graduate of Appalachian State University’s BFA program and a featured artist in the Carolina Beach Mural Project.
Style: “In my work, I focus heavily on bringing attention to the beauty in details. I am a visually impaired artist – I have an eye condition called Nystagmus which means my eyes dance back and forth, making it hard to see detail unless I take the time to observe them up close. I try to take any chance I get to shine a light on something small to help others find the beauty in them as well.”
First mural: “My first mural celebrated South Africa at my high school in Waxhaw in 2014. I helped bring a mural to each wing of our school to share our motto, ‘Marvin Ridge, your passport to the world.’”
Other work: Pump House at Carolina Beach
Upcoming project: Atlantic Towers Hotel in Carolina Beach
Leo Rucker’s interest in art started at a young age. After graduating with a degree in commercial art from Rutledge College, now closed, in Winston-Salem, he began building his reputation as an artist and community partner. He served as a lead historic interpreter at Old Salem Museum and Gardens at the St. Philip’s African Moravian Heritage site up until 2019.
Style: “I use acrylic exterior paint to create large-scale concepts or images. I start out with a mockup or sketch and create a doodle grid on my iPad, allowing me to scale the image up.”
First mural: “My first public mural was at the Walnut Cove Senior Center with the Winston-Salem Arts Council Summer Program in 1999. I worked with middle school, high school and first-year college students.”
Other work: “Our Community” on a retaining wall in front of the BP gas station on Board Street in Winston-Salem; the Depot Street Renaissance mural in Winston-Salem; and a mural on 12th St. and Cameron Ave in Winston-Salem with artist Fredo X Felix
Upcoming project: Winston-Salem Alliance Theatre