Honoring Dean: The Story Behind Chapel Hill’s Newest Mural

Honoring Dean: The Story Behind Chapel Hill’s Newest Mural

One artist's touching tribute to the legendary coach.

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Here’s the thing that is so lovely about Chapel Hill. We are a thoughtful community but also one that takes action.

Upset about the death of Dean Smith on February 7, muralist Scott Nurkin, owner of The Mural Shop, decided to do something to pay his respects. Call it grief personified.

The UNC alumnus had been wanting to create a Dean Smith tribute mural for a very long time. In fact, he pushed hard to paint one on the backside of He’s Not Here. For various reasons, it didn’t work out. Instead, he painted the “Greetings from Chapel Hill” mural there.

Scott’s Dean tribute is located on the wall of a building near the gas station at the corner of Smith Level Road and 15/501, right at the Orange/Chatham line. The building’s owner is also Scott’s landlord – the artist rents studio space next door. Scott approached him some time ago about the idea of painting a mural on his building, and he was fine with that. But because the Dean Smith mural was Scott’s passion project and because it wasn’t being funded by any outside party, the biggest obstacle was Scott simply finding the time to work on it.

On Sunday, his friend texted him early in the morning: “Looks like that Dean Smith mural is more important now.” Scott knew it was time to get going.

He planned to start on Monday, but rain prevented anything from happening until Wednesday. The above photo of the work in progress was taken at about 6 p.m. on Thursday, February 12. He hopes to be done by Tuesday, February 17, but the impending winter weather might have other ideas.

Scott’s portraits of famous North Carolina musicians graced the walls of the former Pepper’s Pizza. You can also see his work at the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher, Kings Barcade, the Lincoln Theatre and Raleigh’s Garland restaurant.  CHM