A new mural is being painted near the Lower Booker Creek Trail to cover up what was previously a row of bare concrete manhole coverings. The mural will turn the previously cracked, worn-down pipes into a canvas featuring the silhouettes of local animals.
“(The pipes) were pretty hideous,” said Max Dowdle, the Hillsborough-based artist who was commissioned for the project. “Two of the pipes, the sort of irregular shaped pipes, were actually completely cracking apart.”
Steve Wright, public art coordinator for Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture, said the idea for a mural on the Lower Booker Creek Trail first came about when Chapel Hill’s Cultural Arts and Parks, Greenways and Recreation commissions came together and proposed a plan to paint the pipes with something better fitting for the trail.
Wright said the Chapel Hill Community Arts & Culture and Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation departments got in contact with Orange County Water and Sewer Authority, which maintains the manhole coverings, and obtained their permission to paint over the pipes. He said a call for local artists was then put out, and Dowdle’s initial design and previous mural work helped him receive the job.
In late June, a video of Dowdle asking for public input on the art project was posted to the Community Arts & Culture’s YouTube channel. In response to the input, Dowdle said he shifted the color slightly to better match the nearby creek, and added the animal silhouettes.
“I really like the addition of the animals,” Dowdle said. “It’s something that ties into the place in a much more unique, personal fashion than the original design.”
Wright said initial community response to the mural has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I was out there yesterday taking some photos, and pretty much everyone who walked by told me unsolicited how much they liked it and enjoyed it,” said Wright.
Wright said one woman in particular said she thought it was nice that local children were able to see the silhouette’s of the local animals.
Community Arts & Culture previously commissioned a public mural on a Bolin Creek Greenway tunnel, and has previously highlighted local artists on several of Chapel Hill’s bus stops.
Chapel Hill Town Council member Tai Huynh said he appreciates public art that promotes diversity and inclusion in the town.
“I know our town is making a very concerted effort to both incorporate and include more art in public spaces as well as give more opportunities to local artists,” he said.
Dowdle said the project is set to be completed as early as this weekend. He also said he would love to put similar murals on pipes located further down the trail.
“(Public art) is something that immediately rejuvenates a place, makes it something people want to care about and engage with,” Dowdle said.