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Local artist Taylor White reveals new mural at The Willard
Photos by Eric Waters
Internationally renowned local muralist Taylor White is bringing major botanical vibes (and a super-’Grammable backdrop!) to The Willard via her newly installed mural, a 664-square-foot piece—dubbed From the Ashes—mixing her loose and painterly style with hard graphic edges located on the side of the rooftop lounge facing Hillsborough Street.
From the Ashes is inspired by the plant specimen collection of nationally renowned botanist William Willard Ashe, who was born at Elmwood, a historic antebellum home near the hotel.
“We did a lot of research and had iterations of ideas before settling on one,” says White. “We found the street Willard Place, which is what [AC Hotel Raleigh Downtown’s] The Willard is named after. … Ashe came up with a lot of the taxonomy that is used in the world of botany. His collection is at UNC, so I spoke to people there and got a lot of access for inspiration for the composition.”
The project is a big feat for White, as one year ago, while on vacation in Iceland—with the intention to head back to Raleigh to start on a mural for Summit Hospitality—she got in a severe car accident that left her with two broken vertebrae.
“I was there for a 10-day trip, and, on the last day, we were driving back to head to the airport and high winds came and flipped our car,” she reflects. “Obviously everything just stops. There was an acceptance in the moment and everything else just went out of my mind. I just focused 100% on surviving and recovering. I started working again a few months ago.”
And while the hospitality group could’ve easily hired another artist to get the job done while White was healing, instead, because of her reputation within the community and the art world as a whole, they waited for her to complete the stunning project.
“I feel very grateful and fortunate to have had this horrible thing happen to me and to have the ability to take an entire year off work, and then when I’m ready to come back, have everything waiting there for me,” says White. “That’s an honor and something that not a lot of people get the privilege to enjoy. Summit Hospitality waited.”
In conjunction with those botanical vibes, The Willard bartender Jessie Rossabi came up with a mural-inspired cocktail that’ll be on the menu until mid-November. Also named From the Ashes, the gorge drink is a vegan gin fizz made with Botanist gin (a nod to Ashe’s contributions to botany, natch!), St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lemon, demerara, lavender and aquafaba. And, obviously, there’s no better spot to enjoy it than posted up by White’s mural. Cheers!
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