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Interactive murals bring the Raleigh community together during the pandemic

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A young girl stands by an interactive mural that is part of the Make Your Mark series of sidewalk murals around Raleigh. Photo courtesy of Anna Totten

If you find yourself walking down a Raleigh sidewalk and see what looks like a coloring sheet on the pavement, you might want to stop and fill it in. The sidewalk murals, which act as a real-life coloring book, allow people from around the community to add their own additions using free art supplies housed in small supply boxes at the sites.   

Designer and illustrator Anna Totten created Make Your Mark, the series of interactive sidewalk murals across Raleigh. 

“It keeps changing as people add to it using chalk, but the outline stays there,” Totten said. “And then with rain or a hose, it basically regenerates so that it’s an activity you can revisit over time.”

Totten came up with the idea for Make Your Mark at the beginning of the pandemic. Being a mother, she was inspired to create something fun and safe that her young kids can do outdoors while remaining COVID-19-safe. 

“We're being cautious about going out, so the idea of having something that still connects you with your community was something that came to mind,” Totten said.

The project was created with the support of Raleigh Arts, Neighborhood Art Funds and with the help of Deft and Level, a carpentry company based in the Triangle.

Scott "Skinny" Eney, owner of Deft and Level, constructed the small houses that hold the free-to-use art supplies for the mural.

“Skinny was involved with helping us design and build the house in a way that was weatherproof and accessible to kids,” Totten said. “And then I was involved with the look and the art of it, doing the painting and the graphics of the boxes and painting everything on the ground.”

The art supplies inside the houses at each installation are provided by the City of Raleigh.

“You can come across the mural, and you don't have to be prepared by bringing your own supplies to interact with it,” Totten said.

The mural is currently only located in Worthdale Park, but there are plans to expand to more neighborhoods and parks throughout Raleigh.

Totten’s project is a unique take on chalk walks, where people create their own chalk art rather than coloring in and adding to Totten’s art.

“I think in general, community-produced projects have been on the rise,” Michelle Fikrig, a graduate student studying art and art history, said. “Chalk walks are rising in popularity as ways to show off the creativity of community members in a low-cost, low stakes setting.”

Totten said Make Your Mark allows people in the Raleigh community to engage with art and see something that's different. 

She hopes the interactive murals are a chance to bring the community together in a safe way.

“I’m glad that the City of Raleigh is still making an effort to get people involved in art, especially during the pandemic,” said UNC first-year Maddie Fan, whose hometown is Raleigh. “SPARKcon, which is this giant chalk art festival downtown, didn’t get to take place this year, so it’s great that there are still other creative outlets for people in Raleigh.”

Even though crowds are not something people can participate in right now, Totten said there are still other ways to connect with people.

“I think being able to see the mural change over time helps us know that even if we're not interacting or seeing as many people as we may be used to, that we know that there's people out there still doing things, still living life." 


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