"The Hidden Gem", a commemorative community mural - CODAworx

“The Hidden Gem”, a commemorative community mural in the heart of downtown Wilmington, North Carolina

Submitted by Anón

Client: The Arts Council of Wilmington

Location: Wilmington, NC, United States

Completion date: 2023

Artwork budget: $40,000

Project Team


Jhonattan Arango

art of anón

Branding and Research

Samantha Arango

art of anón

Arts Council Coordinator

Rhonda Bellamy

The Arts Council of Wilmington

Downtown Coordinator

Clark Hipp

Hipp Architecture & Development

Permits & on-site needs

City of Wilmington

City of Wilmington


Amidst the bustling downtown streets of Wilmington a gem awaits on Second Street – the resplendent mural adorning Bijou Park. Its vibrant depiction beckons passersby to pause, offering a glimpse into the power of collective creativity and communal spirit. Bijou Park is now a connecting corridor linking their Main Street to the river front and a convenient, beautiful respite from the city’s hustle and bustle. Translating to "jewel" in French, the name "Bijou" fittingly encapsulates the essence of this park and the efforts behind the mural. The mural was a collaboration between the Arts Council of Wilmington, PNC Bank, and downtown developers, and was selected from 34 submissions. Its originality and community engagement resonated deeply with the selection team; the project had a community component that engaged around 500 participants, who painted triangles together over a weekend, enabling them to contribute their own unique touch. The mural's location was equally deliberate, acknowledging the wall's history as part of a North Carolina's first movie theatre while celebrating Wilmington's local flora and fauna. Among the 35 murals created by the Arangos, Bijou Park stands as a testament to vibrant color and allure, prompting the relaxation of downtown mural restrictions.


The Arts Council and a group of downtown developers saw the worth in putting their efforts into amending an old downtown sign ordinance that didn't allow large murals. They selected the Bijou Park—built on the site of North Carolina's first movie theater—to place their first public mural, with the intent to craft a commemorative narrative. "The Hidden Gem" brought many ideas into one composition, highlighting the "dramatic" vibration of local flora and fauna on a movie screen, and showing immersed, toned-down viewers off to the side.

Another goal was to create a community painting experience, executed during a Mother's Day weekend. Jhonattan likens the process to "painting by numbers," elucidating the meticulous coordination involved in translating three-dimensional visions into tangible wall art. Samantha's branding expertise complements Jhonattan's mathematical precision. She distills multifaceted concepts into singular images, encapsulating the project's essence.

Not only was it downtown's first large-scale mural, but to many participants it was also an introduction to the power of community, human-centered public art. An unintended, synchronistic addition to the goals was the completion date: the mural was finished exactly on the 111th anniversary of the Bijou Theater.


It is a feat of great will, usually by someone(s) who can withstand quite a bit of resistance, to create a mural program for a city. It takes patience and a special desire to bring something beautiful to the public realm, as there tends to be quite a bit of red tape around painting on walls. The Arts Council of Wilmington and affiliated developers knew they wanted a mural on the Bijou Park wall, so they worked with the city to amend an ordinance which only allowed for 10' x 20' "signs" to go up on walls. Following that they put out a call to artists and selected us out of 34 proposals. We worked closely with them for some time on developing a concept that would encapsulate the historical site's narrative, all while easing the downtown into their first mural with a beautiful, centered, non-polarized composition. Following this step, we offered a community experience (a format we have worked with many times before) that would allow for anyone to join us in painting a portion of the mural. The Arts Council connected us with a multitude of media outlets to get the word out, and the date was conveniently set for Mother's Day weekend, calling for locals to "bring mom". The result was overwhelmingly wonderful, with around 500 participants showing up to paint.