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BEAUTIFYING CASTLE: Castle Street District hope to complete eight murals in 2020

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Luna Caffè had their employee, Janice O’Leary of Janice Designs, update the front of the building with an astronautic mural in 2019. Photo by Shea Carver


Beautifying public spaces entails more than ensuring manicured green space and tidy sidewalks exist in day-to-day city life; it also brands an area’s vibe. Wilmington has a reputation for being a welcoming town to artists, supportive of their creative output. Currently, with the help of the Arts Council of Wilmington and New Hanover County, 12 sculptures are situated across downtown and its outskirts as part of the Pedestrian Art (Ped Art) program. Various displays bring pops of color to Wilmington in the form of abstract statues from NC artists. Yet, scarce is the work of muralists, aside from a few spots in the central business district of downtown.

According to Rhonda Bellamy, executive director of the Arts Council, she has been involved in several mural proposals. The council gives $65,000 in grants each year in support of visual, performing and literary arts, and hosts a variety of events and exhibits. They also work primarily to facilitate economic development partnerships with both the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County.

“Even though I personally secured permission from a private property owner for one of the projects, the feedback was it would set a precedent that could turn downtown into Disneyland,” Bellamy says. Bellamy sees the inclusion of murals as an extension of Ped Art.

“It’s a priority for the Arts Council’s board of directors, who have made murals a focal point for the annual board retreat in January,” Bellamy tells. “We get about 20 inquiries a year from muralists.”

Castle Street District wants to add color to privately owned businesses along Castle Street in 2020. The Castle Street Collective hosted a mural mixer on Monday, December 16 to entertain the idea. They welcomed speaking artists Tiffany Machler, who leads a local artist guild; Bryan Stacy, owner of Anville & Ink on Castle Street; and from California, Erica Nelson, who is able to give 3D computerized renderings of murals before they get painted. Artists were pulled from a database from Simply Mae Marketing’s Ryan Wetzel (secretary of the Castle Street Collective) and Martha-Anne Efird.


On the side of Luna Caffé is a mural DREAMS students painted. Photo by Shea Carver


“The hope [was] to start a real conversation about how to make a plan to move forward with murals in our area,” Wetzel says. “We also want to establish a direct link between the muralists and business owners.”

The topic began when Kent Tomaselli, who owns a few buildings along Castle Street, inquired about murals, the benefits of this type of public art, and the vetting process for getting them started and completed. According to Wetzel, the City has offered little pushback on their efforts.

“Castle Street is not in the [CBD] historic district,” he says, “which means the discretion is up to the owners of the buildings. The City is becoming more receptive to the idea of murals, and Castle Street will be a great example for the other districts downtown.”

The collective’s goal is to have eight murals completed by the end of 2020. Already, folks will see two on the façade of Luna Caffè at 604 Castle Street. One was just completed last month, a space scene painted by Janice Designs.

“Our 3-year-old son loves anything space,” Luna owner Will Chacon tells. “Since our name is ‘Luna’ Caffè, we thought a space theme would be almost a play on words with our logo.” 

They sought the help of their employee, Janice O’Leary, to help complete the work. “We like to borrow talent from our staff when we get the opportunity,” Chacon says.

The mural facing the 6th Street side of the coffee shop features a mosaic done by students of DREAMS of Wilmington. Across the way, the Cape Fear Playhouse building showcases the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and Riverwalk. Both DREAMS and Riverwalk murals were completed in the early 2000s.

“The [Riverwalk one is] very faded and needs to be redone,” according to Wetzel. “Also, the mosaic [at Luna] needs some additions and refreshing, because it says, ‘New Castle Antiques and Art District.’ Castle Street is now referred to as the ‘Castle Street District’ because there is a variety of shops and businesses.”


A mural of the Riverwalk on the Cape Fear Playhouse building was completed in the early aughts. Photo by Shea Carver


Aside from painting the buildings in aesthetically pleasing ways, the business owners like that it encourages engagement as folks come to the district to shop. They’ll find themselves discussing art as well and supporting local work.

“It encourages community participation,” Wetzel tells.

Chacon adds, “It gives the community a chance to show off their different personalities and brings fun colors to the street,”

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Nugget

    January 10, 2020 at 2:42 pm

    Here are a few more juicy bits to add to this wonderful news:
    Barzarre ( formerly the Juggling Gypsy) at 1610 Castle St. has recently gotten a face lift and completely re-done it’s exterior with a brand new mural done by @artbynugget (tiffany machler mentioned in the article) and @graffitibymanix. Barzarre was their first large mural but the have completed pieces at Morning Glory Coffee House,the Ogden Habitat for Humanity, and Coglin’s the the new 80’s bar downtown since then.
    ANVIL & INK at 601 1/2 Castle St. features a giant mural that spans the length of the business done by Bryan Stacy (@bryanleafstacy) Peep your head in the tattoo shop/ gallery to check it out. He has a piece at Reggies 41st street and his work literally set the stage at the Calico Room until it recently closed.
    Erica Nelson is new to Wilmington it has been painting murals professionally for 12 years and is working on a very large project here that is soon to be unveiled coinciding with a grand opening….
    Other muralist involved with the initiative are Jahde Justad (@jahdejustadart) who’s done work with the Wilmington symphony orchestra and Airlie Gardens, Rob Fogle (@Fogleart) who has murals on local businesses such as Goodfellas, The Last Resort , and a beautiful piece in the Brooklyn arts district that the city MADE HIM TAKE DOWN. See the January 21 2018 article in port city daily : for that info.

    To really get the mural project initiative rolling a few things have to happen. I have only found positive data as far as public perception, property value, decrease in crime, and community pride where mural projects have taken place in different geographic regions throughout the country. I feel like these are things that all Wilmingtonians can benefit from whether or not you appreciate art for its own sake , so listen up.
    1. Community members large and small need to LET IT BE KNOWN that what you want is public art and when you want it is NOW! Ways to do this are contact the mayors office, like, comment on, and share this article, drop in to a castle street business speak w the staff, or be creative! Post on Facebook other ways to share this opinion, tag me Artbynugget (Tiffany machler) and I will share those ideas or possibly help facilitate them.
    2. Funds need to be raised. Quality artwork is not cheap, the materials alone come with a hefty price tag. For murals on private buildings the business or homeowner is expected to pay for the art and each mural can cost thousands of dollars. The private citizen/ small business owner not being able to afford this expense is often the main obstacle preventing more murals from existing already. The (starving) artists are in no better position to push murals through without funding because we prioritize our paid jobs to eat and pay bills like everyone else. So, fiends we need help with ideas on how to find money to make this dream a reality. Would you donate $20 to a kickstart or go fund me that could provide scholarships, partial or full, to get these first murals rolling? Would you come to a street fair / auction / festival on CASTLE ST. That was specifically raising funds for the mural project? Would you shop at a local business if they had a special night that donated x amount to the project, or if you were a business owner would you host such a night to start bringing our city streets to life? We need to hear YOUR ideas and input- let’s join forces to make a think tank and get these murals painted!!!!!

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