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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Greensboro’s best-kept secrets: city’s many murals are hidden treasures

Visiting friends in Philadelphia over school breaks, I’ve been fascinated by the number and size of murals there. It seems as if every street is dotted with brightly colored paintings. “All mural artists know Philly is the mural capital of the world,” said CCE senior and muralist Kathleen Kennedy.

Last year my parents moved from our home in Massachusetts to the San Francisco Bay area, where walking through the Mission District you are completely surrounded by murals of people’s history and social issues. After visiting my parents in December, I couldn’t stop thinking about the lack of murals here in Greensboro.

Upon closer inspection, however, I realized that our city is home to countless murals that we might not know about because many are located indoors. Walking the halls of the Wesley Long Community Hospital cancer ward, you will come across a mural by Kennedy and Guilford senior Demian Crownfield.

Park in the deck next to the central Greensboro Public Library and you might find yourself in a stairwell covered with pictures of the Greensboro sit-ins, Harriet Tubman and Emiliano Zapata. Walk through some buildings on A&T’s campus and you might stumble upon a mural with James Brown. The city is, in fact, covered with murals, but you have to know where to look.

African American Atelier, a nonprofit located in the Greensboro Cultural Arts Center on Davie St., hosts a three-week summer arts camp for kids called “Murals, Minds, and Communities.” The kids, from ages 5 to 16, work together to plan and create a mural somewhere in the community.

The four-story mural in the parking deck downtown is the result of African American Atelier’s summer program in 2008. All of the text in the vibrant mural is in English and Spanish.

Zoot McClure, youth director at Mt. Pisgah United Methodist Church, recently told residents gathered at the Beloved Community Center that he knew of a nursing home which was looking to relocate its mural of the A&T Four.

“The company needs to build offices in that space and (they are) trying to find a way to donate it or have it moved,” McClure told The Guilfordian. “I really am not aware of any of the history of the mural. I am only trying to save it.”

The importance of murals

It’s difficult to argue with the visual attractiveness of murals in comparison with drab building walls, but murals can play an important social role as well.

“There are a lot of different voices in Greensboro and murals are a space where you put all of the different elements together,” said senior Mary Pearl Monnes. “Often they are spaces for people who don’t have other spaces for something like that, and they are pretty direct.”

Junior Jordan Auleb, who grew up in San Francisco and went to a school where students went out into the city and helped paint murals, agreed on murals’ importance.

“It is a really central part of community building,” Auleb said. “Murals are a sign of a vibrant, thriving, healthy community.”

Kennedy has been painting murals for over 10 years, including one in the Frank Science Center she did to pay off parking tickets she accrued at Guilford.

“I think public art is great – it’s essential,” Kennedy said. “To do a mural in a public space requires a lot of research and a lot of sensitivity to the surroundings of the area. The community has to come together and collaborate with an artist.”

More on the way

Many people are eager to see more murals in Greensboro, and fortunately a number of projects are already underway. For four months on First Friday, Kennedy has been working on a mural at Table 16, a five-star Italian restaurant on Elm St.

“A big part of that is I want to show people the process of making art,” Kennedy said.

She has also spent two years researching community service projects at Guilford, including first-hand participation in a number of different service sites. After graduating in May, Kennedy plans to begin work on a mural in King Hall focused on volunteerism and service at Guilford.

The mural, facilitated by James Shields and the Bonner Program, will focus on four to five alumni and students and will also contain an accompanying audio element.

“There’s been a lot of conversations about painting a mural in the entrance space to the Greenleaf across from the Veggie Co-op,” said junior Maia Buess, who works in the Greenleaf. “It was supposed to be a house project of the Pines last year but never happened – but there’s still lots of interest in it.”

The Greensboro HIVE has been talking about organizing a mural for one of their exterior walls in addition to the one they already have inside, and Greensboro residents beyond Guilford’s campus are excited about the prospect of more public art too.

“I want to see one smack dab in the middle of Elm St.,” said UNC-Greensboro senior Zim Ugochukwu.

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