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Charleston growing as a mural art city

MARTA TANKERSLEY | Sunday Gazette-Mail photos
Artist Jeff Pierson puts the finishing touches on a mural of a jar of homemade jam for the Capitol Market.
Pierson recently completed a mural depicting an ear of corn. He is creating 16 — possibly 17 — murals for the Capitol Market this summer.
Pierson works on one of his murals at Capitol Market.
A mural depicting a jar of homemade jam is the focus of Pierson’s attention.
Pierson has been creating murals in Charleston since 2010, when he completed a 75-foot-long mural, designed by him, on the back of the One Stop at the corner of Washington Street East and Greenbrier Street. Here he puts the finishing touches on a mural at the Capitol Market.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Folks in Charleston are excited about mural painting.

The area hasn’t quite reached the level of Philadelphia, whose Mural Arts Program has transformed a city known for graffiti into one known for art that is beautifying its neighborhoods.

But Charleston is well on its way to being known for this interesting and ancient form of public art.

Capitol Market, 800 Smith St., is getting in on the mural art scene by hiring artist Jeff Pierson to paint 16, possibly 17, murals measuring 5 feet by 5 feet, and one more that is slightly larger, at 6½ by 5 feet.

“I still have 10 more to do. I’m in the processing of priming some more squares,” Pierson said as he explained the process of preparing the surface of the exterior brick walls and painting the murals of fruits, vegetables, coffee, jam and other offerings at the farmers and merchants market.

A mural is artwork painted or applied directly on a large permanent surface, such as a wall or ceiling. A characteristic of mural painting is that the architectural elements of space being painted are incorporated into the art.

Stamina and enthusiasm for the project are key in painting a large mural, and are perhaps even more important when an outdoor project is done during some of the summer’s hottest days.

“The murals are all based on John Auge’s original designs. He did the original drawings in 1997. It’s the first time I’ve ever painted someone else’s drawings. It’s strange, but I’m getting used to drawing in his style,” Pierson said.

Auge was the president of Capitol Market from 2008 to 2010 and is the creative director of a design firm in the city.

“John created the iconic images that people associate with the Capitol Market. It was time to upgrade our signage … I think it’s a great partnership with Jeff doing the painting for us,” said Tammy Borstnar, executive director of the Capitol Market.

Pierson is not new to mural painting. In 2010, he completed a 75-foot-long mural, designed by him, on the back of the One Stop at the corner of Washington Street East and Greenbrier Street. It depicts a series of vivid characters — some based on Charleston citizens and others fictional — in a parade.

Other public mural art in Charleston includes:

n Peer to Pier Mural Project, which features 32 paintings by various artists — completed between 2011 and 2013 — on columns under Interstate 64 at Washington Street West, Virginia Street West and Kanawha Boulevard West. The subjects of the murals are as varied as the city — from American Indians to Civil War heroes, baseball to state symbols.

n “Out and About” is at the corner of Washington Street East and Elizabeth Street. It depicts children at play and adults enjoying the neighborhood. It was painted by Rob Cleland in 2006.

n “West Side Wonder,” by Charly Jupiter Hamilton, is a work in progress that is nearing completion at 216 Washington St. W. It depicts colorful citizens and animals from the neighborhood.

n “42 West Side” is a tile mural on the 1500 block of Washington Street West. The 6-foot-tall mural by Cleland and Jeff Miller is constructed with 400 ceramic tiles painted by residents, business owners and other community members.

n 123 Washington St. W., site of the former Staats Hospital, has plywood covering 24 windows painted with a reflection of the sky, sunset and scenery. Cleland painted this unique form of mural art in 2013.

n The building at 1600 Washington St. E. has an 8½-foot-wide, 19-foot-tall mural depicting animals wining, dining and listening to music. It was painted in 2011 by Glen Brogan.

n The end of the South Side Bridge has a mural painted on the back of the historic One Bridge Place. Bart Davies incorporated the building’s actual windows into a mural of Victorian houses.

n Brawley Walkway, between Summers Street and Capitol Street, features a painting of an advertisement for Huyler’s Candy.

The city of South Charleston also has many murals, including a map of the city, a festival and a train depot.

For additional information about Jeff Pierson’s art, call 304-541-9284 or visit

Reach Judy E. Hamilton at, 304-348-1230 or follow @JudyEHamilton on Twitter.

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