Just south of Charlotte, Rock Hill, South Carolina is home to a thriving art and creative scene that’s begging to be explored on foot. And where better to start than with Old Town Rock Hill’s Mural Mile?
It’s an initiative that engages the community and local artists in the design of murals on historic textile corridor buildings and alleyways in a mile radius around the downtown area, known as Old Town Rock Hill.
This is the first installment of a new exploration series sponsored by OrthoCarolina, that encourages everyone to go for walks to discover creative communities across the Charlotte region.
Main photo credit: Darion Fleming
Warehouses on White
130 W White St, Rock Hill, SC 29730
You can’t miss the massive mural by Charlotte artist Osiris Rain (@osirisrain) on the side of Dust it Off Brewing Company. The city commissioned him to create the piece to kick off the Mural Mile initiative in 2020.
The brick wall is filled with bold colors and abstract shapes that offset the emotive features of two faces. If you step back, you’ll see “ROCK HILL” spelled out across the wall. For bonus art, the brewery’s back patio features a secret garden-esque mural with hops vines trailing across white “DRINK LOCAL” lettering.
Refuel with a cold brew at Knowledge Perk (and maybe treat yourself to a chocolate croissant). Then walk through The Mercantile, a 5,000-square-foot “immersive indie shop” with local finds and gifts galore, plus warm staff who will discuss the local arts scene and point you to the best tacos in the area.
I’ll share: The recommendation was for Las Americas Supermarket, known for their authentic 50-cent tacos on Taco Tuesday. (The supermarket is about a 10- minute drive from the Mural Mile, but definitely worth the detour.)
NO ROOM FOR RACISM
130 W White St, Rock Hill, SC
Video of the mural.
The powerful street mural on (irony alert!) White Street in front of Dust it Off Brewing Company is the work of Heather Johnson with help from community members. The block letters spell out “NO ROOM FOR RACISM,” a motto that dates back to Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols who served two terms from 1998-2018. The colors in the first letters are a nod to the city’s logo, and the last nine letters are hand-sketched, black-and-white depictions of the Friendship Nine.
The Friendship Nine and Kounter on Main Street
135 E Main St Suite 101, Rock Hill, SC 29730
In 1961, nine African-American students from nearby Friendship Junior College came to what was at the time McCrory’s Five and Dime diner. The young men were denied service but refused to leave.
They were arrested and given the choice of jail or bail. They chose jail. (They were the first to use the “Jail, No Bail” strategy as a protest in the Civil Rights Movement.) Kounter Dining now occupies the space and celebrates the work of the Friendship Nine. Inside the restaurant, you’ll find the original lunch counter and the names of the Friendship Nine etched into the wall.
130 W White St, Rock Hill, SC
Video of Freedom Walkway.
Just around the corner from Kounter, Freedom Walkway celebrates local heroes in Rock Hill’s history, including the Friendship Nine, who worked peacefully for justice and equality.
Co-artists Juan Logan and Laurel Holtzapple weave symbols and ideas across the wall along the wide breezeway. Take time to sit on the concrete stools and absorb the brushstrokes on the bricks and the lines within the letters.
Arts Council of York County
121 E Main St, Rock Hill, SC 29730
At one end of the Freedom Walkway, you’ll find the art deco-decorated Arts Council of York County. Galleries are open to the public, but check the schedule before going.
The organization also assembles “Alleys as Gallerys,” (sic) which transforms the area’s well-traveled alleyways into art galleries that feature works by local and regional artists. Current “galleryway” exhibits include the Cotton Alley Gallery (121 E. Main St.) and the White Street Alley Gallery (130 W. White St.).
Main Street Children’s Museum
133 E Main St, Rock Hill, SC 29730
After being closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Children’s Museum is now open to Culture & Heritage Museums members.
Inspired by the artwork of the late, Rock Hill-based illustrator Vernon Grant, the Main Street Children’s Museum is the perfect place for curious kids to explore. Check out their Facebook page for weekly updates and events.
You may not have heard of Grant, but you may know his most famous creation — the “SNAP! CRACKLE! AND POP!” characters on Kellogg’s cereal.
Pottery, Pastries, and Paperbacks (oh my)
At the corner of Main and Caldwell streets stands the town’s historic post office and courthouse. It’s now home to Rock Hill Pottery Center, where you can purchase handcrafted pottery from the group’s 14 local potters.
Hop across the street to the Citizens Bank building for some macchiatos and macaroons at Amelie’s French Bakery (the loft area is the perfect place to perch). Then pop into Friends Books on Main, the independent bookseller featuring thousands of gently used current reads and vintage finds. Proceeds benefit all York County libraries.
Main Street Bottle Shop is the place to grab a mix-and-match six-pack or a cold pint from one of 12 rotating taps. On your way out, check out the alley art in the narrow walkway behind the bottle shop.
A little further down Main Street, on the southeast side of The Overhead Station Gift Shop, Darion Fleming’s “Dreamer” mural (see main photo above) may resonate with your inner child. Fleming reflects on this project on his Instagram post:
“I want this piece to act as a reminder that children should always be encouraged to create. A child’s dreams are fabricated through an imagination that feeds off creativity, and it can all start with a crayon.”
“Rock Hill for All” Mural
100 Block of Caldwell St.
Watch a news report about the mural.
The newest addition to the Mural Mile is the “Rock Hill For All” street mural. Each letter has its own design created by the artists below:
Charlotte artist Aubrey Hedrick, who designed the letter templates used for the “Black Likes Matter” mural on the 200 block of S. Tryon Street in uptown Charlotte worked her magic by outlining the letters for this mural.
Mural Mile Parking:
West White Street lot (behind Dust Off Brewing Company): 300 Chatham Ave., Rock Hill, S.C. 29730
East Main Street lot (behind Wells Fargo bank): 101 E. Main St, Rock Hill, S.C. 29730
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