Wall to Wall

Muralist Lisa Gaither loves making art part of people's everyday lives. Her recently completed painting on the White Oak Greenway Tunnel is a treat for passing cyclists and pedestrians.

Whimsical murals seem to be popping up everywhere in Cary and Apex. Approachable and casual, they invite viewers to snap a quick selfie or pose as if they were part of the painting.

Muralist Lisa Gaither loves this aspect of her work. A familiar sight at Cary’s Lazy Daze Arts & Crafts Festival, she has created interactive chalk drawings and decorated temporary traffic barriers. Visitors were invited to participate in the creative process, whether helping color in a chalk mandala or taking photos poised over a trompe l’oeil hole in the ground.

“I really enjoy getting the public involved,” Gaither said. “Not everybody goes to galleries or museums, so it’s just everyday life, just for people to enjoy art. I really love public art.”

The recently finished White Oak Greenway Tunnel is her most recent collaboration with the town, resulting in a piece inspired by and at home in the natural setting. While the project was certainly high profile, most of her work is for businesses like the Wake Zone Coffee House in Apex.

Julia Beam, owner and director of Grow Preschool in Apex, says having a mural on your business makes the neighborhood a brighter place. The flowers on her building are popular with students and parents, and they are a favorite spot for senior pictures.

“I would suggest and encourage any small business owner to do it,” she said. “It’s a little bit of an investment, and not all small business owners own their property, but if you do, it’s a way to add pop to your business but give back to your community as well.”

Looking for a photo-worthy background? Check out these murals in western Wake.

White Oak Creek Greenway Tunnel

White Oak Creek Greenway segment between Macarthur Drive and Davis Drive, Cary

In 2020, artist Lisa Gaither began working with the Town of Cary to design a permanent mural for the headwalls of the greenway tunnel near Davis Drive Park. Completed earlier this year, the White Oak Creek Greenway project features realistically represented flowers and wildlife on one side and silhouettes of a biker and runners on the other side.

“Allison Francis & Catherine Page”

Highway 55 & 4010 Convenience Lane, Cary

Completed in 2014 by artist Seth Storck, this painting was commissioned by Sheetz, which has a nearby location. It depicts a young Allison Francis Page, the founder of Cary, and his wife, Catherine, surrounded by native wildlife.

“Destination Becomes Home”

105 Upchurch St., Apex

“The mural highlights feelings of home with bold, eye-catching colors that are inspired by the special aspects of Apex,” reads the town’s description of Max Dowdle’s mural. “From people, to history, to flora and fauna of nature, and topography itself, Apex has a unique kind of small town allure of its very own. The mural brings home the point that wherever you put down roots becomes a part of you.”

“Cary Then and Now”

220 W. Chatham St., Cary

Finished in June 2003 by local artist Val Fox, the mural has faded over the years, but viewers can still follow the visual history of the Town of Cary. At the time, the building housed Loyd Sorrell’s paint and hardware store. He provided space inside for Fox’s gallery and the exterior wall for her mural. Beginning on the right with the large portrait of Samuel Cary over the train station, the mural depicts the people and places that were important to the founding and growth of the town. Fox also included several portraits important to her. Among those are singer Clay Aiken, Sorrell’s daughter and wife in a horse-drawn carriage, and teacher Ruth Cathey, who was Fox’s stepmother. The artist also painted herself, riding her horse.

“All Aboard!”

122 W. Chatham St., Cary

Raleigh-based artist Sean Kernick tackled this project in downtown Cary, partnering with the nonprofit Cary Visual Art. Juxtaposing the old with the new and celebrating creative communities, this mural was completed in May 2019.

The mural was one of three recognized by the Town of Cary’s Public Art Advisory Board earlier this year with a Creative Placemaking Award. “Bond Lake” and “Dreams of Flight” also received the award.

Crosstown Pub Mural

140 E. Chatham St., Cary

Finished in June, this vibrant riff on the letter “X” is one of 26 planned “Alphabet Project” paintings by Raleigh artist Morgan Cook. The artist says he envisioned the project as a scavenger hunt throughout the Triangle, and he encourages folks who find his murals to post photos on social media with the hashtag #alphabetprojectnc.

“Dreams of Flight”

Village at Amberly Square

Completed in 2019, the mural by Scott Nurkin features a cardinal in flight and pink magnolia blossoms. An avid birdwatcher, the artist says he had wanted to paint a giant cardinal for a long time, but no spot seemed right, until he was hired for the Amberly job.

“Cardinals are so brilliant and striking that we take (them) for granted,” Nurkin said. “We are so accustomed to seeing our state bird everywhere that it’s no big deal. But to someone visiting from another country or part of the world, it must be like seeing a macaw or parakeet in the wild. Both male and female cardinals are just flat out gorgeous-looking birds.”

Chatham Street Wine Market

114 Academy St., Cary

The colorful mural is a collaboration between Chatham Street Wine Market and The Douglas Realty Group. “Special thanks to Cary High art students Ruby Schweitzer, Hailey Baldwin and Jamie Shelor for helping beautify our backyard,” wrote Wine Market co-owner Bonnie Gambardella on social media when the mural was finished in December 2020.

Grow Preschool Flower Mural

115 Commerce St., Apex

Business owner Julia Beam partnered with Chapel Hill artist Michael Brown to create the vibrant mural in August 2019. She was involved in the downtown business association and wanted to give Commerce Street “some brightness and pop.”

“I really wanted to tie it in with Grow, and so we decided to use the flowers, the bright colors,” Beam said. “He felt it was important for the children and the parents to be able to enjoy it and for the children to understand that it was the flowers, the Grow, the look, the brightness and the cheery (feeling). He felt it would be easily interpreted and also loved by the community.”

“Hearts of Apex,” Rose & Lee Co.

104 W. Chatham St., Apex

Painted in 2019 by artist Lauren Kehn, the colorful heart mural at the Rose & Lee Collective in Apex is a popular background for selfies and family photos.

Bond Lake

107 W. Chatham St., Cary

“The mural is inspired by Cary’s Bond Park Lake and Boat House,” writes Scott Nurkin in his artist statement. The Chapel Hill-based painter launched The Mural Shop in 2004, and since then, he has created hundreds of murals for a broad clientele.

“The hope is that the connection between nature, family, lazy days and familiar location will inspire the senses of the passerby, enlightening them of a hometown Cary where art, parks, family and neighbors come together in one balanced community.”

Wake Zone Coffee House

1750 Olive Chapel Road, Apex

The drive-through window at the Wake Zone Coffee House becomes a bird feeder in artist Lisa Gaither’s mural, finished in August 2019. A few native N.C. birds show the way toward food and refreshment.

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