by Pat Berryhill

2015 Brought the mural to new heights in the South. It was the fourth installment of The Richmond Mural Project in Virginia that has an admirable goal of creating 100 murals in the first five years and tethering artists from all over the world. Over 60 of those murals have already been manifested, creating art within countless nooks and crannies of the city for tourists to seek out and a large boom to the local economy as well.

This was the inspiration for the No Blank Walls Project in Greensboro, North Carolina. The project is the brainchild of Jeff Beck, artist and owner of Urban Grinders Coffee Shop in Greensboro, and artist and founder of Create Your City, Ryan Saunders. The project is just getting its start but has already had an impact within the community. This past year, The Art of Chase, from Los Angeles, artist Mitch Cook, from Greensboro, and Kendall Doub, out of Winston Salem, kicked off the program with three separate installations.

No Blank Walls reach also extended into a collaboration with The City of Greensboro and the Windsor Recreation Center with the Tunnel Project. Six artists painted a tunnel in a local neighborhood to beautify it and make it a safer place for the community.

They are continuing their work into 2016 with DRA, the Downtown Greensboro Residents Association, donation of $5,000. Beck explains, “What is good is that we now have people coming to us willing to donate walls for us to use instead of having to search for them.” He directs artists that wish to be considered for involvement in the program to email a portfolio to noblankwallsgso@gmail. com. Also on the forefront of what is happening in Greensboro is the #skytags project. Urban Grinders Coffee Shop Partnered with Fairway Outdoor Advertising to promote public art and graffiti artists in a new way. The project put out a Call for Submissions to artists that will enable them to compete for the opportunity to hand paint a billboard that will be displayed in different areas around Greensboro. Four runner up artists will have their visions printed on billboards that will rotate as well. The Call for Submission states, “The theme of the design will be ‘What Is Your Happy?’. We are hoping to have the billboards painted on or around International Day of Happiness March 20th 2016! The winner will be picked from a panel of judges from Fairway, Urban Grinders and respected leaders in the art community. We will invite the community to come out and watch the painting live with entertainment, food trucks and more!” Beck also expressed further wishes for future collaborations across the triad in North Carolina with continued work with artists from Winston Salem, High Point, and Thomasville. He mentioned the Winston Salem organization AFAS, Art for Art Sake, and Kendall Doub specifically.

AFAS has a strong presence in the arts district in downtown Winston Salem and, with a private donation, was able to open a public art park in 2015 called ARTivity on The Green on Liberty Street. One portion of that park is a wall of murals. Kendall Doub is on the board of directors of AFAS and is Chairman of Public Art for the organization. Doub states, “I was involved in the conceptual planning of Artivity on the Green with my contribution being the inclusion of a mural wall at the park. I felt it was very important that contemporary muralism was represented in an art themed public space.

The mural wall is called the Concrete Canvas Wall… and will showcase murals by local and regional artists each year. I am the curator of The Concrete Canvas Mural Fest, which is planned for the first weekend in May 2016 with ten new mural works being painted, live music, etc.” Doub directs artists interested in being involved to contact AFAS through the website or email him directly at Artists that don’t make the current round are next in line for the next year.

The murals in downtown Winston-Salem don’t stop there. All throughout downtown, with a particular concentration on and around Trade Street, the seat of the arts district, public art can be found. Through a collaboration with the city, AFAS, and DADA, the Downtown Arts District Association, the beautification of the downtown area continues. Some of the artists have signed their work, like the now well-known DOUB trademark seen on the murals done by the city’s own Kendall Doub, but others are more obscure and harder to track down.

There is a lot of movement toward public art in North Carolina right now. When you couple current installations in Boone, Asheville, and other North Carolina cities and small towns that have been in place for years with the rising mural scene in and around The Triad, it is easy to see how 2016 will be the year of the Mural in North Carolina. !

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article was published in Change Seven Magazine on January 21, 2016. It is reprinted here with permission.