Need to get outside and to lift your spirits? Explore ten blocks of outdoor art between North Fourth Street and the Riverwalk in downtown Wilmington, North Carolina. The art varies from traditional to contemporary style with something for everyone. Discover whimsical depictions of people, plants, trees, butterflies, birds, fish, and animals as well as profound artistic interpretations of important events and issues woven into the past and present of the community.
Downtown Outdoor Art Stroll
Start your outdoor art stroll at the foot of Market Street until you reach the giant 15-foot high Venus flytrap sculpture made of metal-and-glass, titled “Southern Hospitality” by artist Paul Hill. Another Paul Hill sculpture, “Straining to Be” of a dog on a leash, is made of Corten steel and found objects and is located in Bijou Park (209 N. Front Street).
Discover Outdoor Art Along the Riverwalk
As you walk north from Market Street along the Riverwalk, look for the metal sculpture, “Wind Harp,” by Phil Hathcock that’s across from the community college’s boat-building school. Turn toward the wall of the Best Western Plus Coastline Inn (503 Nutt Street) to view the “Coastal Dolphins” Whaling Wall mural painted by renowned artist Wyland.
More sculpture by Dumay Gorham is located a few feet north along the Riverwalk on the grounds of the Wilmington Convention Center (515 Nutt Street). Gorham’s 23-foot sculpture, “The Dram Tree,” is made of Corten and stainless steel and commemorates a cypress tree that no longer exists. According to lore, when sailors saw the tree, each sailor would drink a dram of rum to celebrate arriving in Wilmington safely or for good luck upon departure. Continue walking east to view Dumay Gorham’s “Pelican” sculpture next to the Port City Marina (10 Harnett Street).
2021 Pedestrian Art Walk features 10 New Sculptures
The 2021 Pedestrian Art Walk debuts this spring with 10 new sculptures to energize Wilmington streetscapes with works by Jessica Bradsher (Greenville, NC) and Jim Galluci (Greensboro). Curated by the Arts Council of Wilmington & New Hanover County, the temporary public art installations will be in place for 12 months.
Contemplate Wilmington’s Past and Present through Outdoor Art
Continue east to the corner of North 3rd and Davis Streets to view the 1898 Memorial Park and Monument designed by Ayokunle Odeleye. Dedicated on November 8, 2008, the monument consists of six cast-bronze paddles, 16 feet high with inlays. The monument’s inscription commemorates a coup d’état that took place on November 10, 1898, during which prominent white citizens of Wilmington overthrew the legally elected biracial government of the city. It is the only coup d’état in U.S. history and killed an unknown number of Black residents. The monument serves as a memorial to those who were killed, a tribute to those who have struggled, and as a symbol of the city’s commitment to an inclusive society.
Do not miss the “Black Lives Matter” mural on two wooden panels on the fence on Davis Street between 3rd and Fourth Streets created by the students of DREAMS Center for Arts Education. On display at the end of North Fourth Street, you can see the “Black Lives Do Matter” and “End Racism Now” community art installations.
From the river to the sea there’s more outdoor art, most notably Cameron Art Museum’s ArtPark with sculptures by Charlie Brouwer, Clyde Jones, Vollis Simpson, Mel Chin and Dixon Stetler. Airlie Gardens features dozens of permanent pieces of art and an annual summer sculpture exhibit. In nearby Carolina Beach, the ART for wALL project celebrates the island’s rich history with murals by local artists. Other places include the University of North Carolina Wilmington campus and the New Hanover County Arboretum, to name a few.