One of the most attractive parts of Charleston is the outdoor art. In fact, it’s the art on our walls that bring people in. Charleston even has its own Public Art Office, which is responsible for approving and maintaining murals and other public art.
Murals are common public pieces around town. They make Charleston a unique place to live, causing people to be more attracted to our city. They are a great type of public art that promote areas, and I think they make Charleston more serene.
Director of the Public Art Office Jeff Peirson has been working with murals since high school.
“In 2017, I became the director of the newly developed Office of Public Art for the city of Charleston, West Virginia,” he said. “This office is dedicated to the conservation, education, and creation of public art in Charleston. Murals are a big part of that. If you include the ‘Gallery 64 Mural Project,’ we have nearly 75 murals in Charleston.”
Murals like “Out and About,” by Rob Cleland, are good examples of community orientated murals.
Located on Elizabeth Street, across from Bluegrass Kitchen, this mural was based on people who he saw on the streets of Charleston, according to public artcharleston.org. It’s a piece of Charleston; it’s unique to the East End.
Other murals like, “Paint on Brick,” by Bart Davies, are different. A beautiful “trompel’oeil” piece, which translated from French means “deceive the eye,” this mural on the walls of One Bridge Place is a realistic painting of a residence with a San Francisco style architecture; that’s why locals call it the “San Francisco mural.”
“I just love painting murals,” said local artist Charly “Jupiter” Hamilton. “When you’re painting the mural, you’re out in the public.”
When he painted “West Side Wonder,” people came by and would talk to him.
“Some of them are street people, I’m the only one talking to them. They’re still wanting to be a part of this,” Hamilton said.
While he painted, he added people who wanted to be included. By the time it was finished, it was very much different than the sketch.
“When you do something big, people think it’s important,” he said. What Charly painted there added a lot to that street. “It beautifies an area, plus it makes it special.”
Jeff Peirson said the community influences the murals.
“Murals are one of the easiest ways to engage the community with public art,” he said. “Working on a mural, I would often talk with passers-by about what I was doing and my process. This made them a part of the process, and they felt pride in not only the mural, but it’s role in the vibrance and vitality in our downtown.
“It makes our city a cooler place to live and visit. Whenever you go to a new town and say, ‘That place was cool,’ public art always has something to do with that. We have a great mural collection in Charleston and I look forward to watching it grow.”
“Gallery 64” is a very unique and different mural project. Every year, artists submit their artwork and a few of them are chosen to paint their art on the support piers under the I-64 near the West Side. The murals change every so often, and it’s a really nice change of scenery. There is always something different to see when you drive past it.
Murals like these are like a “a background for people’s lives” as Charly put it. Murals make Charleston a better place, so enjoy watching our public gallery grow.