Murals Bring Magic to the Rail Trail

December 29, 2017 7:45 pm

Art is around every corner in South End: there are fine art galleries, pop-up events and art sales, and public art initiatives like yarn bombing and murals. Most of the art scene is in front of you, but the Queen City’s most popular murals may be right beneath your nose. (Or feet.) 

The Magic Carpet Murals on the Charlotte Rail Trail through South End and Uptown have added a splash of color to the recreational path since May 2016. The three murals – two in South End and one in Uptown – have become well known around Charlotte thanks to Instagram posts, features on magazine covers and appearances on family holiday cards.  

“There are so many photo shoots,” says Erin Gillespie, a Planning and Development Associate with Charlotte Center City Partners. “They’re the ultimate selfie spot.”   

The mural project came about after the creation of a public art master plan, a guide to steer the direction of art projects along the Rail Trail. Photos of work from Baltimore-based artists Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn were included in the initial plan and after the plan was approved, the artists were asked to bring their work to Charlotte. 

“They had done magic carpet murals before but they had never done more than one at a time,” says Gillespie. “We thought a series of three would be good.”  

Artists Jessie and Katey met at the Maryland Institute College of Art and started painting murals together five years ago when they created a project for the city of Baltimore. In 2013, the duo started creating their signature floor rug murals.  

“We painted a big floor mural, and then realized how much fun it was for people to interact with a floor piece,” the artists say. “We thought it would be fun to push that idea and create an actual painted rug.” 

For their three murals in Charlotte, the artists sought out the help of community members to provide input on how the final creations would take shape. 

“We try and work with as many different people as possible because at the end of the day, the community is left with the piece of art,” the artists say. 

Charlotte Center City Partners organized three community events to engage Charlotteans in the project and help design the murals.  

The artists designed “an art activity with shapes cut out of construction paper and a mock up of rug size,” says Gillespie. “Those designs helped inform the final design for the trail murals.” 

Three workshops were hosted at 7th Street Market, Vin Master Wine Shop at Atherton Market and The Bethlehem Center, welcoming input from neighbors and people of all ages. Once the designs were complete, community members were invited back to join in the painting of the murals. 

“Families came from all over Charlotte because they wanted to come help paint on the trail,” says Maria Floren, a Planning and Development Associate with Charlotte Center City Partners. “We finished sooner than expected because of all of the volunteers.”  

The three vibrant murals can be found in South End behind Shook Kelley at 2151 Hawkins, near the New Bern Light Rail Station, and in Uptown by the 3rd Street/Convention Center Light Rail Station. Since their completion, the murals have become a go-to photo spot and have set the tone for the future art projects to come to the South End neighborhood and the Rail Trail. 

“The Magic Carpet Murals were our first big project along the trail and we’re so lucky because it really catalyzed and enforced the Rail Trail identity for us,” says Gillespie. “It’s perfectly unexpected and it’s a delightful surprise.”

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