Artistic Collaboration and Innovation Collide into a Single Mural

“I have a great friend, who is a famous sociologist, and he writes about the fact that real change actually happens when you have people come from overlapping networks, different spheres of life, and get together and new things emerge out of that. In a real sense, what we hoped would happen in this building is universities would come together, entrepreneurs would come together, businessmen would come together, artists would come together, and this might be a place where new ideas and energy could convert into our community.” - Don Flow

On Friday, July 19th, the Arts Starts mural project was finally released to the public with a ribbon cutting that included over 50 people. The vision, created by our director Betsy Brown and Don Flow, was curated to highlight artistic innovation and collaboration of local Forsyth County high school and college student artists. The students were paired with artist mentors from Winston-Salem to transform the stairways of the 500 West Fifth Street building into a map showcasing the cutting edge ideas and possibilities that the founders within our incubator bring to not only the building, but also the community.

In the crowd anxiously awaiting to see the mural, our founders and mentors were sprinkled in with the family and friends of artists who put in countless hours recreating a lens into the future of innovation at Winston Starts by filling in the 624 square feet of white walls. Speeches from Betsy, Don, artist mentors, and our interns themselves, who recruited the local artists, helped to elaborate on the extent of the work needed to turn Betsy and Don’s idea into a reality, but also amplified the importance of bringing different members of the community together to spark creative and collaborative change within various groups of Winston-Salem. 


The two artist mentors, Beth Spieler and Latisa Tatum, spoke about the extensive process of curating the mural. With over 620 square feet of empty wall space, the magnitude of the project with only a month to work on it prior to the unveiling was no small feat for these artists! Beth explained “We had about eleven artists total who helped with the painting process, but we had five or six artists who submitted their designs, and this is the first time we had seen them, but we just started the conversation and began planning on how we could bring this all together into this mural into this space.” Latisa elaborated on the power of collaborating on this project with such a short time span to complete it. While talking about working with so many artists, she continued “So we jump in, and of course, immediately our strengths jump to the surface, and then our weaknesses immediately come to the surface. But in that power of the group, where you’re like ‘Well I’m not sure of what to do’, and somebody comes right in to help, that’s what it’s all about. It’s like ‘each one, teach one’ and we all learn and we really kept encouraging each other, so it was really just an amazing experience to see people grow to a level of such quickness because we are all there to support each other”, which is something that Don and Betsy hoped would organically transpire from this project. As well, Diana Blanchard, the Director of Community Engagement for the Arts Council, spoke about her role in the partnership with Arts Starts by starting with “"We were really excited about this project this year and moving forward as well as future collaborations with Winston Starts and the Arts Council.” She added “It was just an obvious thing for us to be apart of.”


Finally, before the group cut the ribbon, Don stepped up to say a few words about who and what we hope to touch within the community through this project. In collaboration with Betsy, he adds, “If you have any free time in life, there’s an endless stream of possibilities that Betsy always sees, and [this project] began originally while talking about what we hoped this building might actually be and what it could do for our community, and if you think about the work of an entrepreneur, it’s actually a creative work, and tying that work with arts seemed appropriate for our city in many ways because we want to be about art and innovation together as a city.” Don mentions that the vision for this project was to bring the community together in a much more collaborative way. He recalls that “a lot of this city, in the history of this city, there are a lot of wonderful things about it, and there are some tragic things about it. Some of it is we barely coexisted as a city, different spheres and places. So we thought about ‘how could we actually move from coexistence to cooperation to actual collaboration so that we might actually become a single community. Could we have a place that actually enables that to happen?’” 


Looking into the future, the plans for the Arts Starts project are not complete. The hope of this project is to further expand into other areas of the community, and have more artists and murals pop up throughout the city. Intern Audrey Buck revealed to the crowd that “The Arts Starts program isn’t something that is ending with this floor. We plan on continuing the program to every floor within the building, but with the nature with Winston Starts having a bunch of companies here, as these startups grow and move out of Winston Starts into their own buildings in the Winston-Salem community, we see the project growing further into the community with hopefully these companies having Arts Starts curated murals in their buildings as well.” We would like to thank the following student artists for working on the first of many murals to be curated around the city:

  • Augusta Graham, Salem College

  • Aliyah Rice, Salem College

  • Yosimar Gutierrez, Forsyth Tech Community College

  • Rand Parrish, Reynolds High School

  • Kennedy Vest, Reynolds High School

  • Angelina Rice, Winston-Salem Forsyth Career Center

  • Emanuel Lara, Winston-Salem Forsyth Career Center

  • Clara Rimes, UNCSA

  • Eva Hollar, Forsyth Country Day 

  • Hannah Cael, AFAS

Overall, the combination of great company, the unveiling of the mural and its message literally made the event feel like a piece of cake. The event and mural would not have been made possible if it were not for Betsy and Don, our interns, the artist mentors and students, and the many people who donated time, money, energy and supplies to the mural’s creation. As a result, the building that we, and many other companies, call home became a little bit brighter and synergetic with the mural’s inspiring message of future collaboration and artistic creativity.

Winston Starts