This artist is painting a message of protest 25 feet above a Raleigh street
Images from the January Women’s March on Washington, the 1989 Tiananmen Square protest and the 1968 Olympics Black Power salute are about to explode onto the downtown Raleigh scene with a mural on a Salisbury Street building.
The North Carolina chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union commissioned North Carolina State University graduate Dare Coulter, 24, to paint a roughly 30-feet-by-20-feet mural. Coulter started painting the mural on Monday. It will be on the Salisbury side of the Boylan-Pearce Building at 216 Fayetteville St.
“It’s really important to recall that the right to protest wasn’t always something that people had,” Coulter said on Tuesday, while taking a break. “I’m so honored that this is my first permanent outdoor mural.”
Coulter spent much of Tuesday on a scissor lift with paint and rollers creating the mural’s mustard yellow background. By the afternoon, she had started outlining the figures with blue spray paint, including the mural’s central figure, “woke baby,” the tot whose image went viral after she attended the Women’s March on Washington perched on her dad’s shoulders while carrying a scribbled sign.
A mural “reveal” is planned for next week but the date is uncertain at the moment. The weather will be a challenge, Coulter said. She started Monday despite on and off downpours.
Coulter grew up in Lorton, Va., about 45 minutes south of the District of Columbia, and during her middle school years moved to Clayton. She attended N.C. State University’s College of Design, graduating in 2015. It was a “complicated, difficult and rewarding” time, she said.
In January, Coulter was contacted by Jessica Turner, community engagement coordinator for the N.C. American Civil Liberties Union, and Jedidiah Gant of the Raleigh Murals Project, the chapter’s partner in the project.
They wanted a mural but didn’t have a building. Then Dean Debnam, owner of the Boylan-Pearce building, gave them the OK. Debnam, a well-known Democratic donor, owns Public Policy Polling and Workplace Options.
“At the ACLU, our charge is defending the First Amendment,” Turner said. “The idea of the mural is celebrating the First Amendment. ... We want people to feel emboldened.”
The mural is the ACLU state chapter’s first, but Turner hopes it will not be its last.
This isn’t Coulter’s first mural. While she was creating sketches for the ACLU mural, Coulter completed “Colors of the Nile,” an indoor mural at the N.C. State Crafts Center.
Coulter accepts that not everyone will love the downtown mural.
“There’s this area of public art where you say it has to make everyone feel good,” she said. “It would be naive to say this won’t ruffle some feathers because these moments that are in this are very intense things.”
Evie Fordham: 919-829-4654, @eviefordham