Local officials are hopeful that two new murals in Uptown Shelby will not only bring enjoyment to county residents, but will also bring in visitors from across the state and beyond.
The two murals - one in honor of Earl Scruggs and the other in honor of Don Gibson - were painted by artist Scott Nurkin of The Mural Shop in Chapel Hill, NC, as part of the NC Musician Murals Project (NCMMP), whose mission is to honor trail-blazing North Carolina musicians and the communities that produced these influential and diverse music-makers.
"Earl and Don are two of the biggest names in country and bluegrass music, and given their undeniable talent and accomplishments, they had to be a part of the NCMMP," says Nurkin. "The work of the performers included in the project covers an immense spectrum of musical genres and makes me proud to call North Carolina my home. My hope is that these murals recognize the accomplishments of these incredible musicians as well as spark interest and curiosity."
Nurkin completed the mural of Earl Scruggs on the pedestrian alley side of Newgrass Brewing Company. The artwork depicts the famous banjo master and bluegrass pioneer early in his legendary career. The mural of Don Gibson is painted on the building that houses Miss Molly's Boutique and that was the one-time residence of Gibson's wife, Bobbi Gibson. This artwork features an image of the singer-songwriter and lyrics from one of Gibson's most famous tunes, I Can't Stop Loving You, which has been recorded by more than 700 artists. "We have been working to bring more art to our district and are excited to be a part of this project," said Audrey Whetten, executive director of the Uptown Shelby Association.
"We look forward to sharing the mural with visitors. In fact, the concept of murals as tourist attractions dovetails nicely with the new trends we are seeing emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic - that people plan to travel to smaller towns closer to home to do activities where they can be outdoors and physically distant from others.
" While most people in the community have been very supportive of the new murals, others have questions.
"A couple of people have asked why we aren't using local artists. I would emphasize that these murals are part of a statewide trail that Scott is developing with his business partner, Greg Lowenhagen," says Whettan. "They are painting portraits of trailblazing NC musicians in their hometowns around the state. They brought the concept to us, and we vetted their work and decided to move forward. We are thrilled to be a part of this statewide project that has already received recognition from WFAE, Bluegrass Today, and the folks at 'Come Hear NC,' a statewide campaign celebrating North Carolina's music."
So far, the trail includes murals of John Coltrane in Hamlet, NC, Earl Scruggs and Don Gibson in Shelby, and Roberta Flack in Black Mountain, NC.
"These murals will serve as a constant reminder of the important role these local artists played in the music industry and now back in their hometown," said Roger Holland, co-owner of Newgrass Brewing Company. "I suspect these murals will bring people from all over the southeast and further on a pilgrimage to learn the music heritage of our state as they visit all the installations. This will drive economic investment in our community and provide an opportunity for us to show visitors all the good things we have to offer."