After success of BLM mural, program seeks to creatively transform Charlotte streets

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — During last month’s protests, a Black Lives Matter mural became the symbol of Charlotte’s stance on racial inequality. Artists painted the message along South Tryon Street in uptown.

Now, the city is using that mural as a stepping stone to improve the rest of Charlotte.

Since the creation of the mural, there’s been a handful of vandalism including when a driver defaced it with tire marks.

Artist Georgie Nakima finished the repairs on her letter of the artwork before the city sealed it Thursday. Charlotte’s assistant city manager says the message has been widely received.

“This message conveys that Charlotte values them. And that Charlotte makes them matter,” Taiwo Jaiyeoba said.

He announced that the city is creating a pilot program to allow for more symbolic art like the mural.

“This was a moment that became a movement and we really needed to maximize that moment,” Jaiyeoba added.

The city is partnering with the group Sustain Charlotte to identity underutilized streets and public spaces like in the University City area and 5 Points Plaza.

“Streets are actually our largest shared public space,” said Meg Fencil with the organization.

Leaders will hold public meetings over the next several months to get feedback from residents and businesses.

“We’re really encouraged and we’re really early on in the process. We hope to see more of this in the future,” she said.

While most agree with the sentiment, some neighbors in uptown say the mural attraction draws unruly crowds and the city needs to take that into account if they’re looking to add more like it.

“We’re all for it. But we need more of a police presence or, at the very least, a better response time. That would make all of us feel a lot more safe, and that’s all we’re asking,” resident Benton Jones said.

Nakima said she hopes her art speaks volumes and moves people to action.

“I’m not a lawmaker, I can’t make laws, but what I can do? I can make a visual protest and, hopefully, that will inspire people to bring that out,” she said.

The city plans to reopen South Tryon Street sometime next month.

The mural, however, will stay until they repave the road, which is set for next year.