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Muralists Immortalize Protests, Unrest On Canvas Of Downtown's Boarded Storefronts

Matt Peiken | BPR News

On Tuesday night, officers in full riot gear were video recorded destroying a makeshift medic station for protestors along Asheville’s Patton Avenue. About a hundred yards away, the following afternoon, Ian Wilkinson, an established muralist in Asheville, immortalized the scene on a boarded up storefront along Lexington Avenue.

“This is our job,” Wilkinson said in between applying bursts of spray paint on a board beneath the awning of Asheville Hemp Farms.

“We’re used to kinda creating this magic and it’s our duty to be part of this movement and give a voice to people that are not being heard,” he said.

Dozens of storefronts along and connecting the parallel through-streets of Broadway and Lexington have been boarded up to guard against the more violent elements that punctured otherwise peaceful protests centered in Pack Square in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

With the nod from those who own the stores, a handful of muralists have coordinated to turn these sheets of wood into canvases. They’re still in the early stages, but all that have been completed are directly inspired by the local and national unrest of the past week.

Wilkinson painted a lone officer in riot gear stabbing at a case of plastic water bottles. His text turns a phrase often associated with the police as “Asheville’s finest,” asserting Tuesday night’s episode was "not your finest moment."

Credit Matt Peiken | BPR News
Murals outside Rosetta's Kitchen on Lexington Avenue.

“Some things are going down I don’t think represent the best interests of people,” he said. “It’s a bummer, and it needs to be pointed out very big and glaringly. It doesn’t need to be delicate.”   

Nobody knows how long these murals will remain up, but that doesn’t phase Wilkinson.

“I’d say half the murals I’ve created don’t exist anymore, and that’s OK,” he said. “In the wider scope, all work is temporal, transient in nature.”

Matt Peiken was BPR’s first full-time arts journalist.
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