When I was a sophomore in high school, I learned that my straight-laced, no-nonsense, khaki-pants-and-turtleneck-wearing, Ivy-League-educated social studies teacher had not one, but two, tattoos. Our class was shocked. Mrs. S. has tattoos?! I saw her in a completely different light after that discovery, and my 16-year-old self learned an important lesson about not placing people in boxes based on first-glance assumptions.
But, as with most humans, that’s a lesson I have to re-learn over and over. I misjudge people all the time. And one Instagram account has made me realize that sometimes I misjudge places. True to its name, the CLTMuralMonday Instagram account highlights a different public art mural in Charlotte every Monday.
When I first stumbled upon it in its early days, I rolled my eyes: Well this isn’t going to last long. Charlotte is one of the least artsy cities I know. They’ll have like 10 posts max, and they’ll all be from NoDa. But my 29-year-old self has been learning an important lesson about not placing cities in boxes based on first glance assumptions, because here we are nearly a year and a half later and the account is still going strong.
The account’s founder and curator, Phil Freeman, established @CLTMuralMonday precisely for people like me. He wants to show people that Charlotte has a vibrant public arts scene — you just have to dig for it.
“A lot of people poke fun at Charlotte, saying it’s just a big, new banking city without any soul,” he said. “But riding my bike around, I began to notice that there’s some pretty great wall art here. It’s just not necessarily concentrated in one area. I thought it would be cool to share these murals with friends.”
So Freeman did what most good Millennials do when they want to raise awareness: He hit up social media. The CLTMuralMonday account has a modest following that continues to grow steadily with each passing week. Freeman said he also hopes that these snapshots will encourage people to engage with different parts of the city.
“It’s gotten me exploring parts of Charlotte that I wouldn’t otherwise explore,” he said. Indeed, the account features murals from neighborhoods all over, including Ashley Park, Dilworth, Uptown, Madison Park, Belmont, Windsor Park, Plaza Midwood, South End, Biddleville, and yes — you guessed it — NoDa.
His favorite mural? A colorful depiction of the Virgin Mary superimposed over the Charlotte skyline. Created by local artist Rosalia Torres-Weiner, you can find it in the Windsor Park corridor of Central Avenue, gracing the east side of the Mini-Super El Nevado storefront.
Freeman doesn’t anticipate running out of material any time soon, but if that day comes, he plans to extend his reach beyond wall art.
“Once I run out of murals, all public art becomes game,” he explained.
But his real hope is to eventually bring elements of restorative justice to Charlotte’s growing street art scene.
“My dream is to establish a program that allows kids who have been charged with graffiti or defacing property the chance to partner with a local artist to create a new mural for a local business or non-profits. That way, these juvenile offenders can practice channeling their art in productive — not destructive — ways.”
He described it as a win-win-win-win: “The youth learn a marketable skill while serving the community, the artists get extra support, the businesses get a fresh look and the public can enjoy new artwork.”
Freeman said that there are noticeable pockets of Charlotte that lack a strong public art presence. Perhaps this dream of his can change that someday.