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Midtown Raleigh just got a beautiful face-lift thanks to two local artists. Kelly Schrader and Rich Gurnsey are the winners of Midtown Raleigh Alliance’s second annual Midtown Banner Art Contest, which aims to support and engage local artists while enhancing the area’s visual community appeal. Their vibrant designs—Schrader’s a colorful, psychedelic-esque fountain (a North Hills icon), and Gurnsey’s a majestic blue heron—will be displayed at 26 locations along St. Albans Road, Wake Forest Road and Six Forks Road for a full year.
In response to the contest theme, Wish You Were Here, Gurnsey took inspo from the natural beauty found in Midtown—especially Crabtree Creek, Lassiter Mill Park and the various Greenways. “And it’s not just people that flock to these various locations,” says Gurnsey; “many wild birds like blue herons can be seen taking a dip in front of the waterfall or flying gracefully overhead.”
In her take on the theme, Schrader’s funky design actually depicts a fountain painted by artist Britt Flood. “So, in selecting the two designs we did, we’re actually highlighting the work of three artists,” says Tara Robbins, MRA executive director. Schrader says she wanted her piece to focus on the public art in the area, so she also included motifs from two lesser-known murals—and two of her favorites—located at Midtown’s Dartmouth Apartments and the Main District parking garage.
This year’s banner contest was especially important for MRA as a way to shine light on local artists who experienced struggle during the pandemic. “2020 was a year like no other and has left many in financial hardship,” says the MRA organization. “Like many other nonprofits, [we’re] working to alleviate the economic stress many are experiencing in our community.”
Along with getting their works displayed at North Hills, Schrader and Gurnsey also scored a cash prize for beating out three other finalists—plus, super-awesome bragging rights (do you know how many people drive through Midtown each day and peep those banners?!). So, really, the public wins too.
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