Chapel Hill News

Chapel Hill mural honors UNC Coach Dean Smith

Painter Scott Nurkin works on a larger-than-life mural of larger-than-life UNC coach Dean Smith on a building at Smith Level Road and U.S. 15-501 on the Orange-Chatham county line Saturday, March 7, 2015. Nurkin added a temporary "Go Heels Beat Duke" before planning to paint the yellow background Carolina blue; alas the Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels 84-77.
Painter Scott Nurkin works on a larger-than-life mural of larger-than-life UNC coach Dean Smith on a building at Smith Level Road and U.S. 15-501 on the Orange-Chatham county line Saturday, March 7, 2015. Nurkin added a temporary "Go Heels Beat Duke" before planning to paint the yellow background Carolina blue; alas the Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels 84-77. mschultz@newsobserver.com

Artist Scott Nurkin was back on the ladder this week, finishing his latest mural, a tribute to Dean Smith.

Nurkin, a UNC graduate, is best known for recreating a 1941 Curt Teich postcard of Chapel Hill on the back wall of He’s Not Here outdoor bar. He also painted a series of 19 musicians that hung in Franklin Street’s Pepper’s Pizza until it closed. You can now see them in Hill Hall, the home of the music department on the UNC campus.

We caught up with the 39-year-old Chapel Hill artist (www.themuralshop.com) at Smith Level Road and U.S. 15-501 on Saturday just as he was adding a temporary Tar Heel cheer to the Smith mural wall before that night’s matchup with Duke. (The slogan will disappear, like the Heels' second-half lead in Saturday's game, when he paints the background Carolina blue, possibly this week.)

How did this mural come about?

Nurkin: I had this idea to do a mural tribute to Coach Smith for a couple of years now. In fact I had originally pushed for it to go on the wall where the Greetings From Chapel Hill postcard mural now exists, but it didn't work out for a number of reasons. My studio is located at Starpoint, and my landlord was kind enough to lend me one of his buildings as a canvas.

My friend Rain Bennett is a film maker and he and I had planned on doing the mural and filming the process sometime last year. Because we both travel for work it was hard to get our schedules aligned so we decided to start this spring when the weather warmed up. The morning after Coach Smith passed I got a text from him notifying me of the news, and we decided we had to start right away.

Your concept?

Nurkin: The concept is to try and honor a man whom I viewed as an exemplary leader and humanitarian, who also happened to be the greatest coach in college basketball. I paint murals for a living so this was the best way for me to do that. In addition to his portrait, eventually I'll add my favorite quote of his which he gave to the Washing Post’s John Feinstein: “You should never be proud of doing what's right. You should just do what's right.”

Are you a Heels fan? Did you ever get to see Smith coach?

Nurkin: Haha ... What do you think? Actually it’s kind of funny because my mother and father both graduated from Duke and were married at Duke chapel. My uncle and all of my cousins went to Duke, and both my father's family and my wife and her family are from Durham. Despite all of that, I am a very proud Tar Heel.

I transferred to UNC in 1997 so I was able to see Coach Smith’s last (amazing) year here. I also attended his basketball camp for three years when I was a kid, so somewhere I have three photos of me shaking his hand. Need to find those.

Schultz: 919-932-2003

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