by Sayaka Matsuoka
Laura Lashley applied a colorful mandala flanked by birds to the side of Small Batch Beer Co. on Winston-Salem’s Cherry Street after the brewery asked her to create something for a future outdoor patio. Teal, burnt orange and red converge in a kaleidoscopic mosaic that reminds one of bright, geometric Navajo prints.
“I love working with the shape of the building and coming up with designs,” Lashley said. “It’s different than when you’re working in a studio because with murals, you’re on display; people are watching you.”
Now she’s making plans for a new project, a piece in the new Bailey Park, where she will be painting two large retaining walls on April 10, opening day.
Painting large gives her focus, she says, and makes her feel like she is doing exactly what she should be doing.
“I feel very lucky,” Lashley said.
Kendall Doub, who has a cardinal and a gumball man gracing walls in High Point and Winston-Salem respectively, expressed similar sentiments.
“I like painting big,” Doub said. “It’s intimidating and it makes you realize just how small you are. It’s humbling because it encompasses you and makes you part of the work.”
Doub works with Art For Arts Sake, a nonprofit art organization in Winston-Salem that has been collaborating with the city to build an arts park. The endeavor would have benches with easels, an amphitheater, sculptures and a 124-foot long wall for artists to paint on.
“Winston-Salem is leading the way,” says Doub. “I like to think that we’re the next Asheville.”
Street art and murals beautify the city and brings art out to a demographic of people who don’t go to art museums or galleries, Doub said. He was even thanked by a few homeless men when painting his murals.
“These people are forced to look at these walls all day,” Doub said. “I think it gives them something positive and bright to look at.”
And while Winston-Salem may be leading the way, the other Triad cities aren’t far behind.
Alyzza May works with another nonprofit, the Greensboro Mural Project, creating a culture of murals in the city. Founded in 2011, the group is working to paint a fresh wall on Spring Garden Street next to Re-Cycles Bike Shop. People will be invited to vote on the design on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the site. The wall goes up on April 22.
Like other supporters, May believes that street murals have a positive effect on the community.
“People have a claim to it,” May said. “It builds a sense of ownership for the community.”
Although she says previous projects have generally been welcomed by the city’s residents, lack of funding and finding walls to paint pose the biggest challenges.
Ryan Saunders, an infamous presence in the Triad, regularly works to overcome these obstacles. Primarily rooted in Greensboro, Saunders — a sort of jack-of-all-trades — juggles projects like a valet service and dinner series, but he’s enthusiastic about street art in Greensboro.
“We’re living in a movement right now,” says Saunders. “Street art is the movement of this generation and we are making history by changing the face of art all over the world.”
Saunders cites several artists who are part of that trend, like Freddy Garcia and Kimrey Mitchell who tag the Pit in High Point and Jeff Beck, with whom Saunders is collaborating to bring a street-art festival to Greensboro. Like his other enterprises, he says street art feeds into itself.
“It can improve the standard of living and raise revenue for the city,” Saunders said. “Then we can hire more talent and raise more awareness to really get projects going.”