The first time the eye catches the Color Pop Corner mural, it’s drawn to the vibrant oranges, blues, purples and greens. Located on South Blount Street, behind Marbles Kids Museum, the mural has stunned passers-by since 2018.
“I love creating art for the same reason I started: just the process and how it makes me feel,” said Lisa Gaither, who painted the Color Pop Corner, in a phone interview with The News & Observer. Gaither has painted several murals around the Triangle, including on Glenwood Avenue, in the Morgan Street Food Hall and in Cary.
Murals provide an opportunity to beautify the city, as well as a lasting canvas for artists to express themselves. It’s a space to celebrate the art and culture that is unique to Raleigh.
It seems like new murals are splashed on building walls — and sidewalks and street crossings — on a regular basis these day.
There are plenty to see on a self-guided tour, but we picked 10 of our favorites. That includes older classics as well as newer works featuring COVID-19, social justice, and newly emerging AR technologies.
‘8 bit to 5G’
Where: 429 S. Wilmington St.
Artist: Taylor White, 2021
This mural is striking in its gargantuan size and variety of subjects. It presents a collage of video game-themed items, spanning some of the earliest video games to present day. However, like many of Taylor White’s works, this piece has a lot more to it than meets the eye.
“8 bit to 5G” is the second mural in Raleigh to feature an Augmented Reality component. White worked with Google to produce a piece of art that literally jumps off the wall. Viewers can scan a code on the mural to view and interact with a 3D version on its website.
White’s first AR mural was “Abstracted Motion,” which presented viewers with five figures striking different poses across a 40 x 60 foot space. That mural, considered to be one of the first AR murals in the world, had a 3D component available through the Google Play Store, also called “Abstracted Motion.” It is at 410 S. Salisbury St.
Where: 237 S. Wilmington St.
Artist: Soniya Hardy, 2020
Following last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, Soniya Hardy’s work urges voters to take action with a series of children’s building blocks featuring the faces of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Sandra Bland. All are Black, and all were killed by police or in racially motivated situations.
“When the protests and everything started in June, there was a draw for me, I really wanted to do something,” said Soniya Hardy.
Hardy was invited to do the piece for the election in November 2020. White and black blocks in the background spell the word ‘vote.’ Each block with a face also contains the first letter of the person’s name.
“You know, we say, ‘Say their names’ and ‘Know their stories,’ so that was kind of the idea with this,” Hardy said.
Where: 401 Fayetteville St.
Artist: Gina Franco, 2020
Gina Franco’s mural is particularly meaningful for the city as it comes out of the COVID-19 pandemic. Commissioned by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, the work says “thank you” to front-line and essential workers in a more permanent way.
“Thank you” is painted in huge letters, each representing an essential job, including a “T”-shaped telephone pole, a “K”-shaped firefighting hose, and a “Y”-shaped stethoscope.
‘Pavo the Peacock’
Where: 215 Glenwood Ave.
Artist: Clark Hipolito, 2019
At two stories tall, “Pavo the Peacock” gazes knowingly off the corner of Cameron and Sandy Bridger’s wine restaurant, Drink, in the Glenwood South district.
Artist Clark Hipolito, who owns The Art Company Inc., describes his style as a mix of pop art with hypercolor and surrealism. Pavo, with his bright teals and greens and his deep purples, certainly fits that description.
“It’s one of my favorite things to do: I love painting, I love making art. It’s not really a job, it’s a lifestyle, and I figure out a way to make it my career,” Hipolito said in a phone interview with The N&O.
Where: The corner of North Harrington and West Lane streets
Artist: Sean Kernick, 2019
This mural speaks to all the Carolina Hurricanes’ fans. Artist Sean Kernick completed the painting to celebrate the Hurricanes invitation to the 2019 NHL Eastern Conference Finals.
With its vibrant reds, blues and blacks, this work screams power and boldness, and it features the exclamation “Take Warning” in white text over a black background.
Where: 107 E. Martin St.
Artist: Kalee Calhoun, 2019
Although much smaller than many of the other murals on this list, Kalee Calhoun’s blue daydreamers seem to float off the wall at East Martin Street. It’s minimalistic range of colors remains vibrant and thoughtful.
Commissioned by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance through their ARTivation project, the piece was intended to “add vibrancy to an unoccupied storefront,” according to the DRA’s website.
Where: 227 W. Davie St.
Artist: Louise Jones, 2018
Louise Jones, more commonly known as Ouizi, is a Detroit-based artist who has completed murals across the world. “Indian Summer” is one of two of her installments in Raleigh and was completed in promotion of the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit that appeared at the North Carolina Museum of Art in 2018.
It features several enormous yellow and orange flowers and calls to mind O’Keeffe’s signature painting style, which included painting small flowers in macro size, covering huge canvases.
Jones is the artist of multiple murals in the Raleigh area, including “Summer’s Where You’ll Find Me,” which features a huge arrangement of flowers on the side of the North Carolina Museum of Art’s East Building.
John Prine Memorial
Where: 107 E. Martin St.
Artist: Scott Nurkin, 2018
Tucked away in a corner, the John Prine Memorial mural was painted by Scott Nurkin in 2018 during the World of Bluegrass festival. Prine was a prolific songwriter based in Nashville, Tenn., who died in 2020 due to complications of COVID-19.
The mural was commissioned as part of a promotional push for Prine’s work to receive a Grammy Award.
It features the legendary musician playing his guitar against a vibrant background of oranges, reds, blues, and purples with the inscription “Come on home, you don’t have to be alone,” from Prine’s song “Summer’s End.”
‘Color Pop Corner’
Where: 102 S. Blount St.
Artist: Lisa Gaither, 2018
Standing behind the Marbles Kids Museum, the Color Pop Corner is a strikingly colorful mural that transformed a once-dilapidated gas station into a fun and friendly space that includes several colorful sculptures of balls and blocks.
When Gaither first receives a commission, she likes to focus on how her customers want the space to feel. Some customers, she said, are open to suggestions. Others like the Museum, know exactly what they want.
“They chose the design for the space, and we worked back and forth,” Gaither said.
‘Sprinkles the Cat’
Where: 407 Glenwood Ave.
Artist: Lisa Gaither, 2015
No list of murals in the Raleigh area would be complete without Sprinkles the Cat, who has graced the side of C Grace cocktail bar for nearly six years.
The mural portrays a tomcat holding a hat and crown against a black-and-white background, sprinkled with red and pink roses. The mural was inspired by a cat the local bar owner found in a Dumpster.
“She found this tomcat in the Dumpster, and so she took it home to her garage, but it scared her kids, so she took it to the bar,” Gaither said.
Gaither, who is self-taught, originally got into the mural business because art made her happy, and she wanted to spread that happiness to others.
“When it’s done, what I like to see is that it changes somebody’s day,” she said.