In June, dozens of people stopped along South Salisbury Street in downtown Raleigh to watch artist Dare Coulter paint a full-scale mural, “Dare to Dissent” on the back of the Boylan-Pearce building.
In the mural illustrating protestors and activists, she left a spot available, along with an appropriate hashtag above it, for people to insert themselves in the painting, or to take a selfie.
Sure, there are plenty of museums and other destinations to visit in the Triangle.
But for many, murals, particularly those with a message, have become the latest must-Instagram destinations. A search for #RaleighMurals on Instagram shows hundreds of photos of people posing in front of murals that quickly have become iconic. There are portraits both informal and professional, with the murals serving as colorful backdrops for photo sessions.
Along South McDowell Street, not far from Red Hat Amphitheater, there are shots of people posing in front of the message “All are welcome, Raleigh, N.C.” on the side of the same building that houses Poole’s Diner.
On Glenwood Avenue, a regal-looking cat holding a crown and surrounded by roses is a frequent draw. The Lisa Gaither mural is on the outside of C. Grace.
A sidewalk mural painting party in North Hills attracted plenty of volunteers and an anticipated influx of people snapping photos of the colorful geometric shapes.
And then there’s a relatively recent arrival of the “I Believe in Raleigh” mural painted on the side of Sola Coffee Cafe in North Raleigh. John Luther, owner of Sola Coffee Cafe, said the mural is inspired by a similar one in Nashville.
“We just finished five years in Raleigh, we love Raleigh,” Luther said. “Raleigh has been good to us and we love how it’s growing, we love the people. We’re excited about what the future holds for Raleigh and we want to express that in mural form.”
More murals continue to pop up, thanks to efforts from entities like the Raleigh Murals Project, which seeks to promote and encourage the public art.
This Friday, there will be a mural tour for First Friday with a stop at Coulter’s work.
We traveled across the Triangle and beyond Raleigh to find some of our favorites. The list, by no means comprehensive, features both iconic ones that may be fading along with newer paintings that speak to current times.
1. I Believe in Raleigh
Sola Coffee Cafe, 7705 Lead Mine Road
Show your Raleigh spirit and take your photo in front of this new mural at the North Raleigh coffee shop, completed by artist Stephen Falarsky in May. The mural has even spawned its own Instagram account: @ibelieveinraleigh. You’ll find whimsical photos of friends, children, even dogs, posing in front of the graphic blue painting. Tag your post with #ibelieveinraleigh to be featured on the page.
2. Downtown Raleigh view from Dix Park
In North Hills between Sur La Table (4421 Six Forks Road, Suite 107) and Midtown Olive Press (4421 Six Forks Road, Suite 105)
This mural, which depicts downtown Raleigh’s skyline as it would be viewed sitting in Dorothea Dix Park, was completed by artist Scott Nurkin at the end of 2016.
3. Coca-Cola sign
Side Street Restaurant in Historic Oakwood, 225 N. Bloodworth St.
This mural, which dates back to 1953, was first painted by the owner of a hobby shop that used to be in Cameron Village, according to Mary Lu Wooten, Side Street’s owner. It was painstakingly restored in 1992 by Bill Williams after some squabbles with the City of Raleigh over sign ordinances. “There is not another sign like that in the universe,” Wooten said.
4. Benelux Coffee coffee bean mural
Benelux Coffee, 402 Oberlin Road, Suite 118
Benelux Coffee reportedly holds the Guinness World Record for largest coffee bean mosaic in the world. Check out a record-breaking piece of art and have your coffee, too.
The Remedy Diner, 137 E. Hargett St.
These butterflies, which are now faded, were painted in 1992 by Marlon Ferguson. Catch them before The Remedy Diner moves to its new home on Morgan Street.
6. Angel of Spring
700 9th St.
Angel of Spring, on the wall of a building that houses Ninth Street Flowers and Ninth Street Dance, aspires to capture the essence of the businesses inside the building’s walls. It features an outline of a woman that represents Persephone, the goddess of spring. Persephone looks as though she is dancing away from a bouquet of flowers. The mural, which uses vibrant and lively colors, was painted by local artist Michael Brown.
7. The Durham Civil Rights Mural
120 Morris St.
The Durham Civil Rights Mural, which was completed in 2015, is the work of Brenda Miller Holmes, along with 30 community members that were involved in the design process. The mural depicts local leaders in the fight for civil rights, including Dr. Aaron Moore, who founded the first hospital for African-Americans in Durham; Richard Fitzgerald, who was a successful brickmaker in Durham; Ann Atwater, a civil rights activist; and C.P. Ellis, a former KKK leader who became an unlikely friend of Atwater’s, changing from an advocate for segregation to one of desegregation.
8. Here Comes the Sun
119 E. Main St.
The mural that brings to mind The Beatles’ song by the same name was originally painted in the mid-1970s by Karen Stern and was restored in the 1990s. Although little is known about the work, its bright colors and retro feel are compelling.
9. Time Bridge
Downtown Durham YMCA, 215 W. Morgan St.
This mural by Odili Donald Odita was commissioned by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke. Odita, a Nigerian-American, spent months studying Durham’s history and the city itself. He said he hoped to reflect the multi-dimensional melting pot that is Durham.
10. Greetings from Chapel Hill
He’s Not Here, 112 1/2 W. Franklin St., though better accessed from Rosemary Street
On any given day, you can walk by this iconic mural and see UNC students and Carolina fans posing for photos. This Scott Nurkin mural, completed in 2013, is a rendering of a 1941 postcard by Curt Teich, a German-American postcard printer.
11. Dean Smith
At the intersection of 15-501 and Smith Level Road
This mural of legendary UNC basketball coach Dean Smith – a must-see for UNC basketball fans – was created by Nurkin soon after Smith’s death in 2015. Nurkin, a UNC alum, said he was trying to honor a man he looked up to.
12. Sea Turtles
On a parking deck near the intersection of Rosemary and North Columbia streets
After the original idea of dinosaurs was rejected by the Chapel Hill Design Review Board, artist Michael Brown was inspired to paint sea turtles on the side of a parking deck because he kept turtles as pets as a child. The 1993 mural was restored in 2011, thanks to the Painted Walls Project, which aims to restore murals in downtown Chapel Hill.
With information from muraldurham.com and raleighmuralsproject.com.
Leah Moore: 919-829-4671. Twitter: @leah_moore1
Here’s a look at other well-known murals in the Triangle.
▪ The Downtown Raleigh Alliance has launched a self-guided mural tour. A map can be found at godowntownraleigh.com/event/downtown-raleigh-mural-tour. The free R-Line route follows many of them.
▪ Durham: For a detailed look at the city’s murals, go to muraldurham.com. See the murals on monthly bike tours. One is scheduled Aug. 5. Go to muraldurham.com/bike-tours/ or facebook.com/PreservationDurham.
▪ Chapel Hill: This list is from 2012, but it includes some of the college town’s most well-known paintings. chapelhillrecorder.com/murals