From Blight to Bright

Books by Susan Skrzycki
Books by Susan Skrzycki

Many of downtown Raleigh’s run-down or abandoned buildings have gone from eyesores to eye-catching, covered with colorful works of art. 

This summer, the Downtown Raleigh Alliance launched ARTivation, a temporary public art display where seven local artists were selected to liven up downtown’s vacant storefronts. The program, supported by Artspace and Artsplosure, gives the artists an opportunity to showcase their work while giving city-goers something beautiful to look at as they’re strolling about downtown. 

“It can be uncomfortable to walk past a vacant storefront,” says David Moore, the placemaking and activations manager for the DRA. “This is a great way for us to tackle that.” 

DRA matched selected artists with seven different storefronts for them to decorate with temporary paintings, vinyl images and more. The DRA partnered with two property owners who Moore says were “super easy to work with and understanding of why public art matters.” 

Stifled by Shakira Shipman
Artist Shakira Shipman paints “Stifled” as part of ARTivation

From about 50 submissions, the DRA selected artwork that would best interact with the buildings they had available for the project. The works line South Wilmington and Martin Streets, chosen because they’re both busy retail locations with lots of pedestrian traffic. 

“[The artwork] helps to bridge the gap between spaces that already have a lot of activity,” says Cameron Laws, Artsplosure’s marketing director. 

Artist Kalee Calhoun’s “Blue Daydreamers” adorns the side of Beasley’s, a treat for those headed out to lunch or for coffee or on their way to Union Station, while Susan Skrzycki’s “Books” showcases titles from authors that have made an impact on her. Skrzycki also included a mini library for passersby to grab a book from. 

“It doesn’t have to be a large-scale mural to have an effect,” Moore says. “Small-scale art can have a huge impact.” 

And, so far, it has. People walking or driving around Nash Square stop to enjoy Britt Flood’s “Wild(flower) About You” mural on Martin Street, part of what Laws calls “a street gallery.” 

Along with beauty to residents and visitors, ARTivation brings exposure to local artists—it has already helped some of them land new gigs—and those that support them, including local art supply stores where they buy their materials and signage shops they use to print their designs. As a bonus, it gives us plenty of opportunities to capture color for our Instagram feeds. Collect all the art before it’s gone!

ARTivation will be on display until September. Visit downtownraleigh.org to view a map of the installations.

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