‘Artworks can inspire change’: Chapel Hill calls on artists to paint bike racks


Chapel Hill’s Community Arts and Culture Division recently announced that it is looking for artists to paint bike racks at community centers across the city. The artist application will end on Monday, March 7 at 5 p.m.

Selected artists will paint either a set of four U-shaped bike racks or a set of eight. The artist stipend will be $1,150 for the four racks and $2,300 for the eight racks.

Steve Wright, Chapel Hill’s public art co-ordinator, said the bike racks are located at the Homestead Aquatic Center and the Chapel Hill Community Center.

Wright said the idea for the project has been in the works since the fall. He also said the project is a celebration of May as National Bike Month. The objective of the project is both to give character to the city through art and to promote alternative modes of transport.

“It’s a bit of beautification, but also to bring attention to positive sustainability practices that we’d like to encourage across the city,” Wright said.

This bike rack art project is the latest of the public art projects that Chapel Hill and Carboro have debuted over the past year. Public art can also be seen in murals on public buildings and local businesses, in bus shelters and on transit buses.

Community Arts & Culture also plans to have artists paint murals on sidewalks around storm sewers to draw attention to good stormwater practices.

“Almost anywhere there’s infrastructure that we can do public art on, we’d be happy to do that,” Wright said.

Artists applying to paint the bike racks must reside within a 40-mile radius of Chapel Hill. This requirement is in place due to both practicality and a desire to support local artists, Wright said.

Raleigh-based artist Jermaine “JP” Powell applies to paint the bike racks. Powell said selecting local artists is important to improving the look of the area.

JP has previously created public art for the town of Chapel Hill, including bus shelter murals installed in 2020 and 2021. Powell said a unique aspect of the public art is the community’s contribution to the project.

“Art is all around us,” said JP. “I discovered that art brings people together, especially during this particular time in history, and has the power to bring about change both big and small within a local community. “

If selected for this project, Powell hopes to paint the bike racks in a way that inspires adventure, travel and physical activity.

“Works of art can inspire change,” said JP. “Often it can be thought-provoking and, more importantly, can bring people together.”

UNC sophomore Kaitlin Holtz said she pays attention to public art when walking around campus and it can often bring people joy.

“I think small public art can have a big impact,” Holtz said.

She also said that public art makes a neighborhood more welcoming.

“It makes me happy and I feel more inspired when there’s art all around me or in random places on campus or in town,” she said.

Wright said he hopes the bike rack project will be well received by the community. He hopes it will be a pleasant surprise that will add to the aesthetic experience for residents.

“Public art has a certain voice,” said JP. “He has a voice with a big impact attached to him.”

Artists can apply for the project here.


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