The expansive public art scene in Raleigh, N.C., is quickly proving that beautiful and awe-inspiring art can easily be found both inside and outside of the area's awesome museums and galleries. Slip on your walking shoes and hit the streets to find inspiring pieces that will have you clamoring for the perfect Instagram photo.
Brooklyn artist Kevin Lyons' mural at Trophy Brewing Company pays homage—in his patented whimsical style—to iconic musicians from the Tar Heel State—Nina Simone, Thelonious Monk, J. Cole, 9th Wonder, Rapsody and more.
Find it: 827 W. Morgan St., Raleigh 27603
This larger-than-life symbol of the civic pride the hardworking folks of Fuquay-Varina possess is truly a sight to behold. Bright and colorful, the mural features the American flag waving proudly over the city’s landmarks and natural wonders. It also highlights the family-friendly atmosphere of the town.
Find it: 409 Broad St., Fuquay-Varina 27526 (one block from Aviator Brewing Tap House)
Created by artist Luke Buchanan, this mural—which welcomes visitors to downtown Raleigh along a highly-trafficked thoroughfare—was commissioned by chef Ashley Christensen as a way to promote equality for the LGBT community. The mural received a makeover and a new look in summer 2019 when Christensen opened her newest restaurant, Poole'side Pies, in the building that the mural sits on (construction led to fresh paint!).
Find it: 428 S. McDowell St., Raleigh 27601 (across from Red Hat Amphitheater)
Artist Sean Kernick—perhaps the most prolific mural painter in the Raleigh area—tackled this project in downtown Cary with the help of Cary Visual Art, Inc. Juxtaposing the old with the new and celebrating creative communities, this mural was completed in May 2019.
Find it: 122 W. Chatham St., Cary 27511
Shaw University—the first historically black university in the South, the first college in the nation to offer a four-year medical school and the first black college in the nation to enroll women—celebrated their 150th anniversary in 2015. This mural by artist Scott Nurkin showcases three themes—technology, entrepreneurship and sustainability.
Find it: Approximately at 720 S. Blount St., Raleigh 27601 (behind Estey Hall)
When viewed with the naked eye, “Abstracted Motion” depicts five figures in shades of purple and blue, hitting an array of poses. But, when viewed with an accompanying Android smartphone app, the 40-by-60-foot mural practically leaps off the wall. The art piece, painted by Raleigh artist Taylor White, is considered one of the world’s first augmented reality (AR) murals.
Find it: 410 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh 27601
One look at this art piece, and you’ll immediately see that life in Garner is in full bloom. Every aspect of this mural adorning the side of Full Bloom Coffee and Craft Cafe has vibrant energy from the native N.C. flora and fauna to the elements of Garner’s historic railroad heritage. Another visual gem by local artist Sean Kernick.
Find it: 141 W. Main St., Garner 27529
Detroit-based artist Louise Jones (also known as Ouizi) painted this large mural inspired by plants and flowers found within the North Carolina Museum of Art's outdoor park. Created in 2018, the mural was a part of an exhibit based on Georgia O'Keeffe and other contemporary artists.
Find it: 2110 Blue Ridge Rd., Raleigh 27607 (near entrance of museum's East Building)
Wall space for this mural located at the intersection of Lane and Harrington Sts. was donated to support the community and the home hockey team. The striking red, black and white wall features (among other things) the Carolina Hurricanes logo, cheering fans and the words “Take Warning.” By artist Sean Kernick.
Find it: 301 N. Harrington St., Raleigh 27603 (near Little City Brewing + Provisions Co.)
For the perfect Instagram pic and souvenir of your visit to Raleigh, head over to Sola Coffee Cafe. Enjoy a perfect cup of joe and strike a pose in front of the popular “I Believe in Raleigh” mural located on the back side of the shop.
Find it: 7705 Lead Mine Rd., Raleigh 27615
Another work of art at Trophy Brewing Company, this mural is all about pride!
Find it: 827 W. Morgan St., Raleigh 27603
As part of the 2019 Grammy push, the record label for John Prine—an American legendary country and folk musician—commissioned this mural to be painted during the 2018 PNC presents Wide Open Bluegrass festival in downtown Raleigh. The artist was Scott Nurkin.
Get a snapshot of the coolest cat in town! Dressed to impress and flanked by roses, "'Sprinkles' the bobcat" luxuriates on a wall in Raleigh’s popular Glenwood South district. Lisa Gaither’s creation welcomes all and points the way to the popular bar C. Grace.
Find it: 407 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh 27601
A campaign started by nonprofit group Come Out & Show Them, this "Welcome to Raleigh, Y'all" mural (shown in 17 different languages!) on the edge of downtown Raleigh spans 50 feet across and promotes inclusion, equality, tolerance and more.
Find it: 514 New Bern Ave., Raleigh 27601
“Love Is Love” visually reflects the city’s welcoming and open nature. Portraying a couple in a passionate embrace, the message behind the piece is simple: Love is love and it should be open to all. Art by Casey O'Connell.
Find it: 237 S. Wilmington St., Raleigh, NC (on side of Chuck's)
Teamwork makes the dream work. That's why Oaks and Spokes, a nonprofit organization fostering the cycling community in Raleigh, partnered with Crank Arm Brewing (a rad bike-themed brewery in downtown Raleigh's Warehouse District) to thank riders for doing what they do.
Find it: 319 W. Davie St., Raleigh 27601
One of downtown’s most colorful spots belongs to the Marbles Kids Museum. "Color Pop Corner" delights the senses of both young and old with its eye-popping and brightly-colored geometric shapes. With seating, a small grassy area and big colorful concrete spheres, the space is an ideal spot to burn off extra energy, usually generated by a fun trip to Marbles.
Find it: 101 S. Blount St., Raleigh 27601
At The Cardinal located in Glenwood South, you’ll find some of the best hot dogs and brews in the city as well as one sweet piece of urban art. The Raleigh Bicycle mural is a sprawling rendering of a cyclist being chased by a lion through a warm-colored savannah, inspired by a vintage Raleigh Bicycle Company advertisement distributed to African colonies during the early 20th century. Being that it’s the only lion native to these parts, this mural is a true must-see!
Find it: 713 N. West St., Raleigh 27603
As one of the first artists to blend street art with social media, Kelsey Montague's "What Lifts You" mural series has become a sensation on Instagram (even Taylor Swift posed with one of the murals in New York City). In 2016, Montague finished this "WhatLiftsYou swing mural near The Cowfish at North Hills.
Find it: 4208 Six Forks Rd., Raleigh 27609
Take a stroll around Government Mall off Wilmington and Lane Sts. in downtown Raleigh, and you’ll end up passing “Education Wall 1992.” By pairing quotes like, “You are a child. You are suitable to be awed,” with kid-like doodles and drawings, the mural inspires the student in us all.
Find it: 16 W. Jones St., Raleigh 27601 (behind the North Carolina State Legislative Building)
First created in 1996, this large-scale mural on the side of Raleigh landmark Mission Valley Cinemas was commissioned by HopeLine, a local independent volunteer organization that lends a hand to those in need. Freshly-reimagined and -repainted in May of 2019 by artists Susan Skrzycki and Sven Johnson, the mural offers a phone number for anyone in crisis to call (919.231.4525).
Find it: 2109 Avent Ferry Rd., Raleigh 27606
Ever wondered what it would be like to see Abraham Lincoln cruising around behind the wheel of a Lincoln automobile? Well, wonder no longer, because the Lincoln Theatre hosts a beautiful mural that brings that exact scene to life on the live music venue's west-facing wall.
Find it: 126 E. Cabarrus St., Raleigh 27601
As part of CAM Raleigh's Above The Rim exhibition (closed in Feb. 2019, the exhibit explored basketball through the lens of art from 16 international artists), Stephen "ESPO" Powers re-created a scene from 1990s NBA history—Allen Iverson, sitting on the bench during an actual game, having his hair braided by his mom Ann. A "shoutout to moms everywhere," as Powers described it on Instagram.
Find it: 409 W. Martin St., Raleigh 27603
This project, by BEST (Beautifying Emerging Spaces Together), is a 150-foot depiction of how a community "moves forward together." Trains, planes and automobiles, along with people from all walks of life, are shown on the downtown Raleigh mural.
Find it: Approximately at 210 S. West. St. (across from Heirloom Brewshop)
For a visual homage to the abundant agriculture of N.C., check out this art piece on the edge of City Market. While marveling at the painted produce, don’t be surprised if some of it looks back at you. Finding faces cleverly disguised among the fruits and vegetables is an activity that never gets old.
Find it: Approximately at 225 E. Davie St., Raleigh 27601 (on back side of Vic's Italian Restaurant)
The iconic Free Expression Tunnel is the longest, widest and most heavily-used pedestrian tunnel on the North Carolina State University campus. True to its name, it’s also where students and visitors alike can express thoughts and feelings about anything—some of which manifests itself in some truly unique artwork. Local tip: Look for the “Express Yourself” plaque dedicated by the University in 2006.
Find it: Approximately at 2620 Yarbrough Dr., Raleigh 27607
This mural, which depicts downtown Raleigh’s skyline as it would be viewed sitting in Dorothea Dix Park, was completed by artist Scott Nurkin at the end of 2016.
Stretching 150 feet along the wall of a former grocery store, this downtown Cary mural shares the entire history of the town, starting with the railroad, important in the town’s early days, and ending with images of modern activities and fine dining—experiences you can enjoy today. The mural was created by Val Fax, and completed in June of 2003.
Find it: 220 W. Chatham St., Cary 27511 (on the side of La Farm Bakery)
At CAM Raleigh, artist Dorian Lynde's critically-acclaimed No Damsel exhibition was a hit. The exhibition featured a series of murals and paintings with reimagined, modern-day Disney princesses, and in addition to the pieces in the exhibition, Lynde painted murals in the Warehouse District that can still be seen today.
Find them: Corner of S. Harrington and W. Martin Sts., Raleigh 27603, and nearby
Look out for this giant mural when you visit the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. "The Good of the Hive" is an artistic initiative founded by Matthew Willey on a personal commitment to hand-paint 50,000 honeybees—the number necessary for a healthy, thriving hive—in murals around the world. You can find 11 on the mural in Raleigh!
Find it: 121 W. Jones St, Raleigh 27601, behind the museum's Nature Research Center