Is Raleigh finally getting serious about public art? | Wake County | Indy Week

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Is Raleigh finally getting serious about public art?

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Kevin Lyons is up a ladder, hands black with charcoal, the result of hours spent painstakingly sketching an army of fuzzy-edged monsters on the eastern wall of the Trophy Brewing building on Morgan Street. A crowd watches him at work. A drone whizzes around them all. Lyons climbs down, stands back and determines where a smudge or two of black paint should go to give his monsters movement; they're shouting and smiling, tongues out, staring, or eyes drawn, scheming. Speech bubbles float from wide-open mouths.

The New York City native's illustrations have adorned skateboards and storefronts and sneakers, but, in Raleigh, these monsters have been fashioned into a mural with a message. "[Street art] provides a really amazing forum for both the artist and the community itself," Lyons says. "It can do a lot of good in a community. It can say a lot of things. It can send messages that can remind the community of what to do."

"It's a way to have a conversation. It brings people together," says Raleigh-based artist David Eichenberger, who assisted with the Lyons mural.

In the past couple of months, murals like this have popped up all over the city. There's the seven-surface collection of M.C. Escher quotes that emerged in September (and will be removed at the end of January), a collaborative project between Eichenberger and the N.C. Museum of Art. There's Sprinkles, Lisa Gaither's luxuriating bobcat on the side of C. Grace, the jazz bar on Glenwood South. There are Dalek's bright, crisscrossing lines on the wall of a building in the Ridgewood Shopping Center.

It's become easier than ever for artists to bring color to Raleigh, thanks in no small part to a citizens collective that works to preserve, celebrate and promote existing and new public artwork.

"Our goal was starting a conversation around murals in general," says JT Moore, a marketing director and photographer, who, with Jedidiah Gant, a media strategist and founder of the news website New Raleigh, started the Raleigh Murals Project a little over a year ago. "The way we look at it is, our job is to promote what's going on, and whenever possible, make life easy for the artist."

"We're the middleman," Gant adds, a liaison between artists and the owners of buildings and businesses, as well as the city of Raleigh. "It's been really exciting. There have been lots of murals that we weren't directly involved in. Our goal is to bring more. We're not painters or artists in the traditional sense, but our job is to make sure the city has more murals coming about. We'll gladly take credit for the conversation."

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