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NC community outraged after company paints over mural, turns it into beige wall

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There is shock and outrage in Durham after a company painted over a mural that took more than half-a-year to create. The image above shows a before-and-after of the wall. (WTVD-TV)

DURHAM, N.C. — There is shock and outrage in Durham after a company painted over a mural that took more than half-a-year to create, according to WTVD-TV.

The artist, like many others in the community, is livid the one colorful scene is now one neutral shade.

“I can’t look at that beige wall. I mixed over a thousand colors,” said artist Emily Weinstein.

It was 1996 when Weinstein began painting the massive mural on the side of the Penny Furniture Building on Morris Street. Dozens of volunteers helped out. Now, the landscape of the nearby Eno River is erased. The building’s new owner painted over it.

Weinstein says she lovingly painted more than 800 animals, numerous flowers and trees.

“It was a gift to the City of Durham,” said Weinstein. “I was really hoping whoever moved in would be a real steward of the town.”

A company called the Caktus Group bought the historic 1910 building in March and is renovating it inside and out. The CEO admits redoing the exterior is a mistake.

Tobias McNulty posted a lengthy statement on the company website and said,” I am personally distressed at this response. I see now, in retrospect, where we needed to work harder to discuss our decision with the community. Its removal was not a decision taken lightly and one done in consultation with the Historic Preservation Commission. However, we handled it poorly. We apologize for not making more efforts to include the community in this decision.”

Weinstein would like the chance to go back and paint another mural.

“It’s huge. The loss is huge to the town and I’m hoping that they decide, ‘Hey, we need another Eno River mural’ and I’d gather a lot of artists and resurrect,” said Weinstein.

The mural was paid for in part by the Durham Arts Council, which is located right next door to the building.

The company told ABC11 that they are open to creating another mural or piece of artwork. The company plans on holding a meeting and is inviting the public to come and share their ideas.


  • news2me

    Look at the before and after. This company has succeeded in planting an eye sore in this community……. The company needs to pay Emily a hefty sum to paint another mural.. It amazes me at the lack of common sense possessed by some companies…Art should included in all of the designs of all of the buildings in any community….that is unless you have a greedy bunch of business men that do not give a happy hoot about anything but the green$$ that they are making.
    At least the new owner sees his mistake and wants to correct it.

  • Pat

    The CEO said he worked with the Historical Preservation Commission. Where were their heads when they thought a beige wall was more attractive then a beautiful mural.

  • Tear Drop

    Wow!!!! When was it a crime to change something that belongs to you???? As if these people have a legal right to make this company do anything to satisfy their own entertainment…lol….If they wanted the mural to stay, then they should have all gotten together and bought the building themselves! I can guarantee there are a million other things that they can complain about that may make a change, but to complain about someone elses choice to change THEIR own property, absurd!

    • Sara

      I absolutely agree. And I don’t believe that most of the people complaining would appreciate being told how to care for their own homes/cars/belongings.

      • Kim

        I bet it would be much different if it was something you had worked your butt off on for a very long period of time. Granted yes the building belong to someone else, but it still would have been nice if they would have at least had the common courtesy to see what others thought before jumping the gun. They even admitted they made a mistake and should have talk to the community first. So what is so wrong with that. There are way to many judgmental people in the world today. The speak before they think.

  • B good

    Come on people ,, we can not even speak how we feel in the privacy of our own living rooms without a few overpaid entertainers getting their feelings hurt and being forced to sell a personal investment that has paid these whining overpaid entertainers millions a year.,,,, the lesson here is (a few peoples feelings trump the rights of all.)

  • Bo Diddley

    Just paint a mugshot wall on the side of the building to help process the thugs in Durham faster.

  • Victoria

    I think it is extremely sad that they painted over this mural but it was their building to do so what they wish. Maybe the company will allow the same artist to incorporate another one now that the facade is finished. It is clear from the photos that they added windows to the building during the renovation. I can see why they made that decision. I am an artist and I have painted a few smaller murals and I find it heartbreaking when someone paints over something I worked many days on. Unfortunately there is little protection given to works like that unless you own the building and most artist can not afford something like that and want to move on to other projects so it is unrealistic to purchase each piece of property you paint.

  • BG Poole

    Seems the company that owns the building has the right to do what they want within the law, the artist had no right to force the painting on the owners of the building actually it should never have been painted a waste of money I think. The artist should have worked to find someone who wanted a mural not took it on to make money.

  • BG Poole

    If you are an artist you already know not everyone is going to appreciate your art, the issue here is money I do believe, the artist got paid once now they want to make more money, have their art out there, I understand it but the building belongs to someone and they should not be forced to have a mural if they don’t want it. Public opinion is being used to force the owner of the building to do something they don’t want this is wrong. Go paint somewhere else where it is wanted and you own or are asked to paint.

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