CHAPEL HILL – The beloved mural on Franklin Street depicting a girl playing a flute is gone.  All that’s left is a black wall in its place.

“I didn’t know anyone was planning that. I was very disappointed. These things are kind of like my little children,” said artist Michael Brown. He says he was on his ladder Wednesday painting a new mural for the Chapel Hill Library when he found out the news.

“And I’m very disappointed in the way it was done in an expedient way,” Brown said.

Brown explains he painted the mural around 2001. The Lantern Restaurant in the 400 block of West Franklin Street painted over the mural with black paint after the restaurant expanded.

“There are so many people who are invested in it,” Brown explained. “You can only think that they just didn’t know. And were very eager to display their new look and indeed the place does look wonderful.”

The murals are not protected because the walls belong to property owner. The Lantern Restaurant was with in its rights.

“The truth after being upset and confused for a little while, I just said, ‘Well, that’s their prerogative,'” Brown said.

“Save the Murals” campaign raised $1,500 to restore the mural back in 2008.

Though he says he holds no hard feeling towards the Lantern Restaurant, Brown says he’d love to see some of the more cherished murals be protected.

“I never imagined how people would fall in love with them and how much a part of the community it would really become,” Brown said.

Brown says he’s painted more than 20 murals in Chapel Hill over the years. He also travels to other cities up and down the East Coast, painting about 10 murals a year.

When asked if the ‘girl with a flute mural’ was his favorite, Brown said no, instead: “It’s the one I’m working on now. I’m always pretty engaged in them.”

Statement from Lantern Restaurant 

When we bought the building last year, we decided to convert Lantern’s outdoor spaces into gardens and green, vine covered walls. We have known Michael Brown as customer at Lantern for many years. About six months ago, he was informed of our renovation plan and responded by offering to paint a new mural in the same spot. Lantern’s renovation is not a comment on Michael Brown’s work, but rather a business and design decision that was made with deliberation. We have loved growing with and being part of the Chapel Hill community for the last 11 years and we look forward to many more.
As long as we rely on on private property to host public art it will be vulnerable to the inevitable evolution of a thriving downtown and impermanent by definition. However, potential blank canvases for public art on Town-owned buildings are everywhere. Perhaps Mayor Kleinschmidt could start such a process by identifying possible sites for new murals on public buildings in Chapel Hill.