Vibrant blues, yellows and oranges joined the streetscape of Hillsborough this month as a local artist completed the town's first downtown mural.
The 11-by-35-feet mural, entitled “Take the ‘A’ Train," honors composer and jazz performer Billy Strayhorn, who spent formative time during his childhood in Hillsborough. The mural is painted on the northern side of the building at 226 S. Churton St., home to Volume, a record store and bar.
Max Dowdle, a classically trained fine artist who lives in downtown Hillsborough, recently began working on murals. When he moved to Hillsborough, he noticed the town had no murals.
Shannan Campbell, economic development planner for Hillsborough, said Dowdle reached out to her in April and asked if the town allowed murals. She said while there are some regulations, murals are allowed in Hillsborough, but no one had ever shown interest in producing one.
Campbell said that since the town values historic preservation, it prohibits painting on historic brick. But, she said, there are buildings with painted brick or stucco walls that would allow murals.
“They’re pretty low-cost, high-impact projects,” Campbell said. “Hillsborough prides itself on being an arts community, and it’s just a really good way to kind of highlight that.”
Campbell said something happened that rarely occurs with these kinds of projects: everyone was on board.
Campbell said she reached out to the Tourism Development Authority to see if tourism dollars could go toward the project because she hoped it would bring people to Hillsborough to celebrate the artistic side of the town, its history and the African-American history there.
Building owners Mary and David Knox supported the project. Volume's owner, Tony Lopez, brought the idea to them, asking for permission to use the wall for the mural.