In February 2020, 11 Carolina Beach residents met for the first time and discussed starting a non-profit public arts movement on the island that celebrates the history and culture of Carolina Beach. Fast forward September 2021, and they are installing Mural #8. The concept is simple one: find walls, raise money and find local artists (NC residents only) that help bring their mission to life. We spoke to Founder and President of the Carolina Beach Mural Project, Maureen Lewis.
Tell us how the project got started.
I am a Board Member of the Hermosa Beach Murals Project. My husband and I moved to Carolina Beach from Hermosa Beach, CA 2 years ago and I wondered out loud why there wasn't much public art on the island. I met with Island Arts and Culture Alliance president Skip Sprague, and he said that there was a desire, but no one really knew how to start a murals program. I had the experience and the time to execute a mural program in my new hometown. Through Skip, I met local artist Susan Nuttall, and began putting a team of "doers" together- everyone bringing a talent (marketing, finance, PR, volunteer wrangling, muralist) and we had our first meeting in 2020. IACA gave us a grant to create a website and start our first mural.
The board agreed that the murals we wanted to fund should celebrate the history and culture of Carolina Beach and just started talking to landlords about securing their walls (which is by far the hardest part). We reached out to Rhonda Bellamy (Arts Council of Wilmington) who was also an early supporter and helped us get the word out about our mission. We officially became a 501 c3 non-profit in December of 2020.
How does the artist selection process work?
Once a theme is determined, an RFP (Request for Proposal) call to all NC Artists is sent out, asking them for concepts for the wall and theme. “We post the RFP on our website, social media, art schools and through word of mouth. We provide as much history as possible, and a little guidance on what we are hoping for. All submissions are reviewed via a blind selection system. Only the moderator of the meeting is privy to which Artist submitted what. The board chooses the artist's concept that best fulfills the RFP, is within budget (3,000-15,000), has provided examples of previous work and can install during our schedule. This is exciting and intense because everyone on the Board has an equal vote, so there are some very passionate moments as we discuss the merits of each concept. There is so much talent in our state, it is always hard to choose the winner. Only after the vote, is the final artist revealed to the Board.”
The murals convey a story of how everyday people can make a big difference in the community and how this project has encouraged cultural tourism in Carolina Beach. Public murals attract new local businesses, they bring customers to pre-existing spaces and boost the economy. The murals celebrate the history of the town in an engaging and experiential manner. The town has a rich and diverse history that needs to be shared with visitors and residents.
Are there plans for a new mural?
Yes, we just signed our first wall for 2022. We have a few other interested landlords and we hope to schedule 3 for next year. We will continue to add murals until the interest from the community and/or visitors is no longer there. Or we run out of walls!