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The Rise of the Murals

Public murals in Annapolis brings art to the city and the public.

By Darin Gilliam

Throughout history, civilizations have left behind murals as a depiction of the times. Art movements and periods through history have depicted the “vibe” of the times as a tangible document of life during their time period. Medieval Art during the Middle Ages was often dark and emotional, depicting the darkness of the era. Renaissance Art was often decorative and highly detailed, representing the changes in economy and society at the time. 

In the 1980s and 90s, mural work was mostly associated with graffiti, which at the time was illegal in many cities. As a representation of hip-hop culture, graffiti was loud in color and extremely expressive. Your graffiti style was a full representation of your individuality, community and aesthetic. Against the backdrop and rush of city life, graffiti art was a way to lose yourself in creating and show the whole city the height of your skill and craft.

Why turn to public walls for art?

Graffiti art was not considered true art for years. The artists who created graffiti were viewed as vandals who have no true artistic training. This left them with a lack of options for showing and expressing their art. The option to show in galleries or large shows was not open. Big ideas and big style calls for big spaces, but unfortunately, the creation of this art on public and private property created many issues and graffiti artists were reduced down to criminals, instead of artists. 

Fast forward to 2001. 

I am visiting a friend in Philadelphia. The day I arrived, he asked me if I wanted to come with him to the graffiti wall. “Graffiti wall?!? Yes, let’s go!” As we buzz through the streets of Philly, I notice the large scale murals around the city; reaching up buildings, scaling around brick and mortar shops. I am in awe. We arrive at the graffiti wall. This was a wall designated as a legal wall for young graffiti artists to express themselves without vandalizing property! I grabbed a can of spray paint and joined the wall. My heart was full. 

From Philly to Annapolis.

My first memory of mural art in Annapolis is the amazingly beautiful and detailed mural by Cindy Fletcher Holden on Chinquapin Round Road. This sprawling piece is a wonderful depiction of life of the Chesapeake Bay; sailboats, people fishing off a pier, Naval Academy in the background—it still stands the test of time and is a piece of public art history in Annapolis. In many ways, Cindy has been the pioneer and foundational artist in the rise of mural art in Annapolis. 

Outside of adding vibrancy to a city, it has been found that cities that embrace mural art experience 5 to 10% more foot traffic and annual revenue than cities that do not have a presence of mural art. We tend to connect mural art with creative freedom and adventure. Thanks to organizations like Urban Walls Brazil and Future History Now, we have seen a rise of murals across the city of Annapolis. While Urban Walls Brazil focuses on bringing different artistic worldviews to Annapolis, Future History Now creates community by engaging local artists and the youth in the creation of murals. Both organizations do a wonderful job at storytelling through art, while adding more color and life to our city. From abstract animals to political figures, the mural art in Annapolis has created inspiration and representation for many. 

A recent mural addition to West St., is of former United States Representative John Lewis. Presented on the wall facing the 7-Eleven gas station as you enter into Downtown Annapolis, it is a welcoming and encouraging piece. Across the top is a quote from Lewis, “We must continue to go forward as one people, as brothers and sisters.” After the political and emotional unrest of the past year or so, this is a message that is not only needed but necessary. It stands as a quick reminder to those strolling up West St., grabbing fuel or snacks at 7-Eleven, or those waiting at the nearby bus stop. This piece bridges gaps and speaks to all people. 

Take a mural tour.

A mural tour around Annapolis is a delight to both kids and adults. Head outdoors, find and admire amazing art, and get to know your city a bit better. You can visit several murals within each of these areas around town.

The Design District 

The Design District is home to the bulk of murals in Annapolis and thanks to its website, annapolisdesigndistrict.com, you can view the location of each of the 12 murals in the neighborhood. It is home to vibrant work led by Cindy Fletcher Holden, Urban Walls Brazil, muralist Jeff Hungtinton, and muralist and teacher Houl on behalf of ArtFarm Studios. 

Inner West Street

A quick stroll up Inner West Street will showcase a number of murals led by Future History Now, from the infamous Presidents Hill mural to the front facade of restaurants Level and Tsunami. Don’t miss the latest mural of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Thurgood Marshall, across from the courthouse off Church Circle.

To see a mural in progress, head over to the Maryland Cultural and Conference Center (MC3) to view a large piece celebrating the history of Carr’s Beach. This piece is led by local artist Comacell Brown and is located in the large lawn behind the Westin Hotel. It will go down as another beautiful addition to Annapolis art history. 


After your stroll down West St., swing over to Eastport and catch a gander of colorful work from local artist and muralist Charles Lawrance as you enter Severn Ave., and a collaborative mural led by Cindy Fletcher Holden near the Chart House and Bread & Butter Kitchen, which celebrates 150 years of the Eastport neighborhood.  

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