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Mu·ral: /ˈmyo͝orəl/ a painting or other work of art executed directly on a wall.
Durham’s murals have multiplied as the years go by! With so many options, it was difficult to narrow down my favorites to include on this self-guided walking tour of downtown Durham’s murals. What a great way to see all of downtown’s treasures while finding the best of our outdoor displayed works of art. A handy map is included at the bottom of this post. Parking is available on the street and is free on weekends.
Don’t feel like walking? Grab one of the shared scooters available throughout town. This tour should take approximately 30 minutes and is 1.3 miles long. Have fun and keep a lookout for places to come back to eat or drink!
400 W. Corporation Drive
Start your journey at the Liberty Warehouse mural. Reached by going into the entrance framed by the old drive-in facade on the Rigsbee Avenue side of the building, the Liberty Warehouse mural commemorates the city’s history around tobacco. Painted by Darius Quarles in 2017, the mural follows tobacco from the growing to the collecting, through to the loading onto trucks for sale. Due to the historical ties of the Bull City to tobacco, it was important to have a mural reflecting the significance of the plant in the city’s history.
With the Liberty Warehouse mural behind you, turn right onto Rigsbee Avenue, walk to the end of the block, then turn right onto Hunt Street where you’ll find the next mural.
Flame, Fire, Forge
214 Hunt Street
The founders of Vega Metals were commemorated in this piece by Emily Eve Weinstein in 1996. These portraits feature the artists who worked in the shop at the time.
Walk past the mural to Foster Street and turn left. You’ll find the next mural on the wall to your right.
Pauli Murray in the World
313 Foster Street
Pauli Murray, a long-time resident of Durham, advocated for civil and human rights. Active in the American Civil Liberties Union and National Organization of Women, Pauli Murray fought race and gender inequities. So beloved was she that there are five Pauli Murray murals in town. This particular mural painted in 2007-2008 by Brett Cook is located in the parking lot across the street from the Downtown Durham YMCA.
Look up from the parking lot to see the Time Bridge mural across the street.
218 W. Morgan Street
Look up as you walk by the Downtown Durham YMCA and feast your eyes on this colorful piece of art. Artist Odili Donald Odita created this piece in 2015 in honoring the Nasher Museum of Art’s tenth anniversary. The piece was uniquely designed to reflect Durham. The pattern, colors, and shapes represent Durham’s diversity and the population’s ability to push forward even in the face of adversity.
Continue your walking tour of downtown Durham’s murals. With Time Bridge to your left, walk down Foster Street to the next street corner, East Morgan Street. Turn right onto Morgan for one block, then turn left onto Morris Street. The next mural is about half-a-block away on your left.
Durham Civil Rights
120 Morris Street
Led by Brenda Miller Holmes in 2015, members of the community created this mural as part of the Durham Civil Rights History Project. The mural features portrayals of memorable points in the city’s history. Depicting successful black businessmen and members of the community, the mural celebrates the stories of those whose everyday struggles advanced the civil rights movement. Located in the back wall of the surface parking lot next to the Durham Arts Council.
Resume your walk by turning left out of the parking lot. Turn left at the next street corner, onto East Chapel Hill Street. Across the street, you won’t miss the next mural!
Ninth Street Bakery
136 E. Chapel Hill Street
If you’ve enjoyed some of their fresh baked goods, you know that Ninth Street Bakery is all about using local products and helping the community. Painted by Scott Nurkin in 2017, this fields of grain mural embodies the bakery’s from scratch and local mentality.
Wall of Hope
136 E. Chapel Hill Street
Painted in 2008 by artist Andria Linn in collaboration with members of the community. Located on the side of the Threshold Clubhouse, an organization helping adults with severe mental illness. The mural depicts how mental illness affects people and how communities provide support. It signals that while mental illness does not discriminate, they are not alone.
You’ll find this mural in the Ninth Street Bakery parking lot nearest W. Main Street. Fun fact: The mural’s border features footprints from members of the community.
Standing a bit back from Ninth Street Bakery, this will be the only spot on your walking tour of downtown Durham’s murals where you can see four murals from the same spot.
Exiting the Ninth Street Bakery back onto East Chapel Hill Street, you’ll immediately find the next two murals across the street.
Mexican Modernism Murals
Across from 136 E. Chapel Hill Street
Do you know what is ugly? Parking lot garage doors. Durham’s answer? Paint them! The two parking garage doors to the Durham Convention Center now bring joy to passersby. Completed in September 2019, and painted by artists Cornelio Campos and Cecilia Lueza, Durham’s latest murals inspired by Frida Kahlo is timed with the North Carolina Museum of Art’s Frida Kahlo exhibit.
Continue walking along East Chapel Hill Street. You’ll pass the plaza with the statue of Major the Bull to your right. On the next block, you’ll find an alleyway across from the Durham Hotel, just before Alley Twenty-Six. Proceed down the alley and you’ll find the next mural to your right.
Grab Life by the Horns
120 W. Parrish Street
A bit hard to find due to its location in a private courtyard, this is a truly Durham piece. Painted by Victor Knight in 2017, it embodies Durham’s spirit – the bull taking life head-on.
Exit the alley by continuing ahead (with the mural to your right). You’ll exit onto West Orange Street and turn right onto East Parrish Street. As you come to Major the Bull, turn left onto Corcoran Street. Walk approximately two blocks, crossing over the train tracks. Turn right onto Blackwell Street. You’ll find the next mural about halfway down the block in the alleyway to the left.
210 W. Pettigrew Street
On the side of Burt’s Bees headquarters, you’ll find a beautiful canvas of bees in their hive. Painted by Matthew Willey, the founder of the Good of the Hive Initiative in 2016, the mural brings attention to the plight of the bees. It seems only natural for this beehive to be painted on the Burt’s Bees headquarters.
As you can see in the map below, this self-guided walking tour of downtown Durham’s murals is about a mile. Once you add your walk back to your car, add another half-mile. Expect to spend about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how long you stay to admire each mural.
As you walk around town, you’ll also see one of the newest versions of murals in our city – painted power boxes. Why have ugly power boxes when you can have uplifting and creative pieces of art instead? You’ll see two of them during your walk, one at the corner of W. Main and Corcoran and one at the corner of E. Chapel Hill Street and W. Main Street (Five Points, in front of M Pocha). These pieces were sponsored by the city and painted by students during the last year or so. Look for more of them to pop up around town.
Want more Durham Murals?
There are so many murals in town that you can even add extra sights and time to your walking tour by looking at the locations found here. Are you an artist looking to create a Durham mural? Mural Durham maintains a list of artist calls.
Want a full list of Durham’s murals? Stop by the Visitor’s Center at 212 W. Main Street and pick up the pocket-sized “Mural Finder” put together by Mural Durham. Listed in alphabetical order, the booklet lists 26 beautiful murals, listing their location and relevant information.
Don’t worry if it rains during your visit, we’ve got suggestions for you. And the adults will enjoy touring Durham’s breweries, distilleries, meaderies and cideries!
Annick, The Common Traveler
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