If you drive down McReynolds Street in downtown Carthage, you’re bound to notice that the side wall of the Nationwide Insurance building got a facelift this summer. The first of 20 proposed murals celebrating the 238-year-old town’s history was unveiled in September as part of the Carthage Mural Project, a sub-committee of the Carthage Century Committee.
The the 89 foot wide by 17 foot high mural commemorates the town’s connection to the Tyson and Jones Buggy Co, which existed in Carthage from 1850 until 1929. The town hosts a Buggy Festival each year to celebrate the former Carthage business.
Although town beautification is a favorable side effect of the downtown murals, the Carthage Mural Project Committee is clear on the overall goal of the project.
“This is economic development,’ said Mark Fry, Carthage Mural Project Chairman. “Maybe not traditional economic development, but the goal is to bring people into to town.”
“With Pinehurst (the big draw for Moore County) just 10 miles away, people might say ‘hey we’re close to the mural town, let’s go see that while we’re here.’ That generates new restaurants and shops. We’re the county seat, so people are coming for court. We’d like people to come see the murals, spend the day, do some shopping. We want to draw people in and get our downtown refurbished.”
The idea for the mural project came from a similar project in Exeter, California, a town of about 10,000 people. The town started on their ‘outdoor art gallery’ project in the mid-1990s as a way to refurbish vacant or disrepaired buildings downtown, and now have 29 murals depicting local history, culture and folklore.
“The result was that there were no more vacant buildings,” Mark Fry explained. “People came into town to see the murals and do walking tours, but it also brought businesses to the town.”
Carthage Century Committee chairman Tommy Phillips visited Exeter in 2012 while in California for a wedding, noticed the murals, and wondered if it would be a good fit for Carthage.
Phillips formed a sub-commitee from the Carthage Century Committee of about 15 people. They began in January of 2013 to start the preliminary steps for the project, such as looking at walls for potential murals and brainstorming themes. The committee identified 20 walls from walking distance of downtown.
“We got the wall we wanted,” Mark said of the first mural. “ We got the easement from the building owner. We sent out RFPs to artists and picked an artist from North Carolina (Chapel Hill muralist Scott Nurkin.)”
“We hit a home run with the first one. It’s so big, visible and so well-done.”
The Century Committee challenged the Town of Carthage to match funds for the first mural, and got other funding from private donations. The committee will need to raise money for the next mural, then start the process of choosing a wall, hiring an artist, and of course - picking a theme.
“We tried to make it clear to citizens that we want ideas from the people who live here,” Mark said. “We want the town to feel like the mural belong to them, so it’s a community feeling.”