Public Art Makes a Difference: The Durham Mural Project

Tucked down a short alleyway leading to 42A Main Street in Durham, is a pocket of murals, recently painted and bursting with positive messages. Not only is this little art haven just simply a wonderful addition to the community, but it raised funds for a local charity, helping feed those in need. Which means this project will probably warm your heart in multiple ways.

In-process photo of the Durham Mural Project. Photograph provided by Sarah Grandy.

A Lovely Collaboration

The Durham Mural Project was born of two creative business owners putting their heads together to engage with the community. Sarah Grandy of the Main Street Makery and Katherine Norling of Van Claus Designs decided a new mural needed to happen and came up with the concept to create an installation that mimics a gallery wall filled with artwork. 

And that is exactly what was produced. A beautiful spectrum of color will fill your eyes as you stroll down this short alleyway. So why did they feel drawn to ignite this project? Sarah Grandy stated,

Both Katherine and I have traveled extensively and we know what it feels like to be in a new place and be drawn to open and accessible public art of all kinds. Our hope is that by reinvigorating this common space that is otherwise just an alleyway cut through to Main Street. The impact will be far reaching. Also by involving people that share our  passion for public art and giving back to the community, the reach goes beyond one alley, one street, one town.

The involvement in this project is impressive. Around fifty creatives contribute to painting these mini art spaces. Participants ranged from oil painters, graphic designers, UNH art students, UNH parents, area art teachers, friends, neighbors, mother/daughter duos, impassioned teenagers, husband/wife duos, and talented artists willing to paint for others that wanted to sponsor a square but wanted someone else to paint on their behalf. All of the artists were given freedom to develop their own concept and styles of painting, with the prompt of it including a positive message. 

Photograph provided by Sarah Grandy.

It is also worth noting another collaborator in this whole project: the owner of the wall. Roger Hayden of Hayden’s Sports owns the building this project was created on, and he generously gave permission for Katherine and Sarah to coordinate this mural project with complete creative control on his wall. As Sarah mentioned when we spoke recently,

Public art like this doesn’t happen unless the owners of buildings are willing to let art speak!

Creating for a Cause

This mural not only reinvigorated a space that was heavily trafficked by pedestrians, but also raised money for a worthy cause, End 68 Hours of Hunger. I was curious how this idea came about. Sarah explained:

Instead of inviting a group of artists to help us bring the wall to life as in past mural paintings, we decided to sell squares as a way to raise funds for a local charity. Food insecurities are heightened and we wanted to feel like our contribution could directly assist local children and families. We raised over $3,000 for End 68 Hours of Hunger. We don’t have an official contact or connection but it is easy to donate online. We encourage anyone to consider donating further at

All the Feels

I can speak from personal experience as to how rewarding it is to participate in this kind of project. That’s right, your Artful Harper created a small mural on the wall as well! 

My contribution to the wall!

Working alongside other artists, (with some safe distance between us and masks!) really felt rallying. It is a reminder of goodness, kindness, working together, and hope. I felt moved and honored to be a part of it, while also contributing to help those in need by a local charity. This project is a perfect example of how public art can bring a community together and visually enrich a town. I have no doubt many people’s days will be brightened as they walk by the Durham Mural Project.

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