The power of paint: two new Roanoke street murals mix bright colors and civic pride

Campbell Avenue 'End Racism Now' painting open to traffic; mural on 1st Street SW alley finished

ROANOKE, Va. – Downtown Roanoke received a splash of color this month, thanks to two street murals.

The first, an ‘End Racism Now’ painting on Campbell Avenue, was completed last weekend and opened to vehicle traffic Saturday night.

“This is something that has really ignited this city,” Roanoke mayor Sherman Lea said. “So many people from all walks of life are coming out and talking about how proud this has made them.”

The second mural is in a much less visible location. Local artist Toobz Muir finished his mural in the alley between Martin’s Restaurant and First Citizens Bank on 1st Street SW this weekend.

“It just livens up the monotony of walls that seem to be things that just corral you,” Muir said.

Muir’s alley artwork, which spells out the word ‘Roanoke,' was commissioned by building owner Jim Cherney.

“We’re in that transition of moving from a community with trains to a community with brains,” Cherney said.

Both Lea and Muir believe public art like this is an essential part of making Roanoke an ideal city.

“This is the idea of what Roanoke invites,” Muir said. “The idea of different colors and love and inviting people to come and enjoy where they live.”

“It’s important to me that we come together as a city,” Lea said. “I hope this art sends the message: ‘Let’s give it a chance.’”

Lea encourages any local artists with ideas for public artwork to contact him.

“We want to open our eyes and open our arms to young people and others who have a vision,” Lea said. “We want to make everyone in this city proud of what’s going on.”

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