North Carolina’s public school students may be spending more time at in-home classrooms, but local Cape Hatteras Secondary School (CHSS) art teacher Justin Paxton and his CHSS mural club have found a productive way to get some fresh air.
The team is still sticking to their long-term goal to make Hatteras Island a more colorful place to live and visit, and they are continuing on a new mural project along the side of the Cape Hatteras Anglers Club’s (CHAC) clubhouse in Buxton, which began before the COVID-19 pandemic became a national concern.
“We started this project two months ago, before Coronavirus was an issue,” says Paxton. “Now, we’re just practicing social distancing [while we work.] When we were working on this mural the other day, we all had our own ladders, we gave [the students] their materials after they were cleaned, and we just kept at a distance… No high fives or anything, just waving for right now.”
The new art project is part of an island-wide initiative by Justin Paxton to bring street art to the landscapes of Hatteras Island, one building or landmark at a time.
Since 2017, when the project began, Justin Paxton and his volunteer crew of CHSS students and alumni have created colorful murals at roughly 14 local sites, including Nedo’s, Lee Robinson’s General Store, the Village Red and White, the Fessenden Center gymnasium, Askins Creek Store in Avon, and many more.
The impromptu project has certainly grown since 2017, with the group forming an official CHSS Mural Club in the process, and more businesses signing up to be part of the colorful endeavor.
The newest addition to the island-wide street art project at the CHAC clubhouse follows a fishing theme that’s evident throughout the island, and features a school of giant drum and mullet cruising along the side of the building. The Cape Hatteras Anglers Club donated the supplies for the new mural, and Paxton and his team of students provided the creativity and the work.
Paxton estimates that the new mural at the CHAC clubhouse will be finished within a few days, but they have more projects lined up in the weeks to come, which includes a new mural in Avon at Turner’s High Moon Bar & Grill.
“When I started the mural project, I didn’t know where it was going to go,” says Paxton. “But it’s gotten popular, and I really enjoy it. We can make this island into something that’s almost like an [outdoor] art gallery.”
And as North Carolina schools remain closed until May 15, Paxton has found that the all-outdoor project serves as a great opportunity for local children to get outdoors and stretch their legs, as well as their creative muscles.
“It’s a chance for [our kids] to do something else, basically,” he says. “A lot of the kids down here get really bored, so we want to keep pushing them to do something else, and something [productive.] Even if they don’t think they can paint, they can push a roller brush along and know that they helped in their own way… Regardless of what’s happening, we’re always going to be a club, and always going to keep painting.”