CAROLINA BEACH — When Maureen Lewis moved to Carolina Beach from Hermosa Beach, a small beachfront town just south of Los Angeles that began memorializing its funky, colorful culture with artistic wall murals just over 10 years ago, she began thinking of way to replicate the idea.
“That’s what my vision was for Carolina Beach, a town with so much history, so many great stories,” Lewis said. “I don’t want them to be forgotten.”
To Lewis, there were some strong similarities between Hermosa Beach and Carolina Beach, two popular destination towns with nearly the same latitude coordinates (separated by .17 degrees), mild and sunny climates, and rich histories. Soon after she arrived, she founded the Carolina Beach Mural Project, with similar goals and beliefs of the Hermosa Beach Murals Project: use public art as a way to unite residents, entertain visitors, and boost the town’s economy and “social wellness.”
The group is made up of nine volunteers — including local artists, entrepreneurs, a town councilman, a realtor, and several residents active in town committees — and its tag line is “ART for wALL.”
They have their sights on four wall murals painted by local artists on buildings scattered throughout Carolina Beach. The first will be unveiled on the front of Town Hall facing passing cars on Lake Park Boulevard — a “Welcome to Carolina Beach” illustration painted by a team of artists led by Susan Nutall, and inspired by a 1950s postcard.
“We know it’ll be one of those murals people will get out and take a picture of,” Lewis said.
The second mural is expected to be unveiled on the side of Veggie Wagon Produce and Specialty Shop in early November, celebrating wildlife photographer and Surf Carolina Magazine founder Robbie Johnson. The artwork will encapsulate the history of the building, which was once Johnson’s surf shop before it served as a bait and tackle shop, according to Lewis. She said a Request for Proposals has been sent out, and hopes for a total of six submissions (there are currently three).
Although the group must still pick an artist to paint the third mural — which will be a dedication to the island’s famous Shoo-fly train painted on the side of Crush and Grind — Lewis expects to host an event to raise funds for the artist that will include a raffle prize of a week’s free stay in a local condominium.
The train’s nickname came from passengers who had arrived to the island’s north end on the Cape Fear Steamboat from Wilmington in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The train was windowless and hot and filled with biting flies and mosquitos, and passengers had to continuously swat at the bugs as it passed from a dock near Snow’s Cut to the main downtown area. (There was no road built on the island at the time.)
The fourth mural will be painted on a wall at SeaWitch Tiki Bar. The artist and theme of the illustration have not yet been determined, although shag dancing has been considered.
The painting committee for the Town Hall mural will meet at artist Susan Nuttall’s studio on Tuesday, September 15th to sketch the ‘Welcome to Carolina’ illustration.
Visit the Carolina Beach Mural Project website here.
View photos of the mural locations and design inspirations above using the arrows. In order: Crush and Grind; an illustration of the Shoo-fly Train; SeaWitch Tiki Bar; and Veggie Wagon Produce and Specialty Shop. (Photos courtesy Carolina Beach Mural Project)