Photo Safari: Wildflowers on 12th


Driving to Northwest School of the Arts with her mother as a child, Charlotte artist, Melissa Wineman (AKA @owlymo) used to see hateful messages painted on a retaining wall along 12th Street (under I-277) and think, “One day, I’m going to paint that.”

Last Month — years later — she did just that.

Since graduating from UNC Charlotte with a BA in Fine Arts, Melissa has had a variety of jobs, some fulfilling others not so much. But, her art and her drive to create remained constant. 

“I would do my art on the weekends … pop up on the weekends when I could. And, then work my 40 to 50 to 60 hour weeks on top of that,” she said.

Becoming a Full-Time Artist

That changed on April 28, 2018. That’s the day she decided she could no longer pursue art in the margins and stolen moments. It had to be her full-time pursuit. With one lifelong goal — to make art her primary focus — underway, Melissa set her sights on another lifelong goal: Paint that wall on 12th Street.

In 2019, Melissa was selected by the City of Charlotte’s Placemaking Program to create “Wildflowers on 12,” a mural of North Carolina wildflowers and insects on the retaining wall she used to drive by as a CMS student. But, she had to be patient. As part of an Interstate, the wall is owned by the State of North Carolina. It took nearly two years before Melissa was allowed to begin her work. When she did, it was with gusto.

Photo Credit: Brooke Brown

Getting the Dream Done

Over 17 days in October, Melissa painted her mural. It was a task to be sure. “I originally applied for what I thought was 50 feet,” she says. “But when we measured it, it was more like 301 feet.”

That didn’t stop her. She decided to paint the entire wall anyway. And, she did it all herself. Melissa primed the wall, dealt with plants and overgrowth, picked up trash and painted every inch of the wall with paintbrushes. The largest was about the width of a smartphone. She worked from 9AM to 5PM (or later) and rarely took breaks.

Her work did not go unnoticed. As she painted intricate details of the wildflowers and insects (which she grew up reading about in botanical books), Melissa drew a crowd. Neighbors dropped by to thank her. Some of them were crying to see something beautiful. And, she cried with them.

“I wanted to give the neighborhood something beautiful to look at … other than a highway,” she says.

See “Wildflowers on 12th” for yourself across from Seigle Point Apartments. Until then …

Take a Photo Safari with our Friend, Brooke Brown