Loosened restrictions give artists new canvas for murals in Wilmington

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Wilmington City Council has paved the way for artists to paint the town red, blue, purple, and all colors of the rainbow.

A city spokesman says a long-discussed update to the city’s land development code last year has made the guidelines more mural-friendly.

These changes are making way for a large mural in Bijou Park. After working to get the development code changed for eight years, The Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County President and CEO Rhonda Bellamy is spearheading the effort.

“You think of any great city that you go to and what you love about that city and very likely it has something to do with an arts experience and usually a visual arts experience that welcomes people to your town,” Bellamy said. “We see it as an opportunity to create opportunities. Not only for the artists and arts organizations for whom the Arts Council serves as a nucleus but also for the thousands of audience members that we have here.”

When the Arts Council put out the call for muralists, 35 artists responded. These submissions will be shared with a selection committee to be narrowed down to five. The council will then select three to showcase at its gallery on North Front Street for the public to share their thoughts at the Fourth Fridays event on January 28 from 6 pm to 9 pm.

Right now, murals are few and far between in Downtown Wilmington, but Historic Wilmington Foundation Executive Director Travis Gilbert says murals have a long history in the city.

“We’ve got a picture from the mid-twentieth century here and it shows you right where we’re located, right where the ‘I Believe in Wilmington’ mural is located, there historically was a mural, an advertisement for the old Futrell’s Diner and Pharmacy in that building,” Gilbert said. “It shows you that murals, artwork, and advertisements have always had a role to play in our historic downtown. We believe they have a very important role in reactivating historic spaces in years to come.”

The city’s land development code does require all art and murals visible to the public in any historic district to comply with a “Certificate of Appropriateness.”


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