Balloon Boys Flying High on Wake County Parking Garage

The Ballon Boys’ Massive Mural Covers Parking Garage

August, 05, 2011, by David

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The Balloon Boys (not to be confused with the BalloonBoy) is a team of young illustrators who all attend the NC State College of Design and today their massive wall covering on a parking deck is officially unveiled.  The work is the result of a juried competition hosted by Empire Properties and the Wake County Commissioners. The illustration wraps around the exposed corner of the Wake County Convention Center Parking Garage wall. This expanse was a barren concrete wall, intended to be covered by an Empire Properties office/retail building called the "L Building." In October Empire asked to keep the land but push the project back to late 2013, and county commissioners granted the company that extension. 

The fantasy illustration smartly takes advantage of the 20,000 square feet it covers by giving viewers both near and far differing experiences.  There are 15 panels in total, and each is tied together with flying vehicles and fantasy creatures passing through. Each panel has its own focused motif and color scheme but all tie together to create a larger image that paints a rainbow across the building.   The illustration was chosen from a selection of entries from NC State College of Design Students by Greg Hatem and Andrew Stewart of Empire Properties with assistance from artist, curator and Empire Employee Tracy Spencer. 

The three artists: Joe Lawson, Justin T. Philips, and Jordan Deva, won a $2500 prize for their efforts.  Read more about their collaborative:

Empire Properties along with Wake County Libraries will host a reception tonight at 5pm on the corner of Davie and McDowell. See the mural there anytime over the next 2-3 years.

Photos from the selection process.

Video on the artists:

Correction: 8-5-2011 Corrected type of building from hotel to mixed use, grammar.

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Arts, Other posts by David.


L BuildingPublic ArtThe Balloon Boys


  • stacey
    08/05 01:43 PM

    wow…this is amazing! i’m sad we’ll only have it for a few years.

  • Jeff
    08/05 02:23 PM

    You know theyre gonna move it somewhere else to display if/when the building ever gets underway.  The real shame will be if it’s 2013 and nothing has changed.

  • Brian
    08/05 02:56 PM

    This piece totally rules.  I only wish they could’ve hid the whole thing for a big reveal tonight; it was a little anticlimactic to see some panels go up and come down.

  • fartsy
    08/07 10:07 AM

    well,,,I guess its better than concrete walls but,,,,yeah, I will leave it at that.

  • Mike R
    08/09 11:44 AM

    i think it looks awesome

    08/10 12:59 AM

    Wow… that crap passes as public art? It doesn’t even cover all of the wall. The illustrations are juvenile in style, substance and execution… nevermind that the banners make it look even cheaper.  Lets just go ahead and label this endeavor one giant flop. Its a shame… I really had a lot of faith in our great design school to make something interesting and aesthetically stimulating… instead we get something out of a middle school kid’s binder. I hope they don’t mention that this is from NC State’s design school… it makes the school look amateurish. Oh well, its not quite as the art in the city square, and at least this is temporary.

  • iheartwill
    08/10 01:07 AM

    couldn’t have said it better.  waste of $2500.

  • Alex
    08/10 11:53 AM

    Raleigh, your asinine decisions never cease to amaze me… or maybe baffle is the better term. Sure, some of the lay-critics above might call it pretty, but they have no idea what they are talking about. This piece has absolutely no meaning or defining characteristic in general… instead it looks like some nerd’s anime fantasy (never trust a person who loves anime). The colors are awful and unnatural not to mention they look even worse together… and the shinny banners make it look like a cheap ugly billboard. They should have hired a professional art firm… that way the money would have been better spent and cavalier “artists” would not have been able to get their stinkin’ hands on this project.

  • Brian
    08/11 04:50 AM

    I changed my mind.  I hate fun, too.

  • Carl
    08/11 12:23 PM

    “Cavalier” artists…

    Alex, your a Cava-dummy.

  • Alex
    08/11 03:02 PM

    Uhhhhhh, please elaborate. Do you even know what cavalier means?

  • richardfoc
    08/11 04:04 PM

    Hey Alex, I know what cavalier means and based on your statement about the artists I’m pretty you don’t.

  • Eileen Eulich
    08/11 04:22 PM

    The artists are clearly mounted soldiers.

  • Alex
    08/11 04:38 PM

    Read the first and second definitions for the adjective… not the noun. You really though that I was using a noun to describe the artist?  Wow… just, wow… check up on your intelligence before questioning mine.

    Apparently some of you are having trouble with the unfamiliar words… so I’ll lay it out straight for you. It is clear that when the artist undertook the project, he had little regard for the true quality of this piece or how anybody other than himself felt about it. So he decided to make this self-indulgent pastiche expecting to receive acclaim regardless of the outcome. You wouldn’t describe that as being arrogant, dismissive or nonchalant? Where did you learn all of your vocabulary? Sesame Street?

    Also Carl, its you’re not your. Bit of advice… brush up on YOUR vocabulary and grammar before accusing another person of being a dummy.

  • Alex
    08/11 05:01 PM

    And while you scramble for your dictionaries, I’m going to go ahead and point out that I meant to say “thought” instead of “though” in the first paragraph.

  • bob
    08/11 05:11 PM

    LOL, i’m going to go ahead and make a few points here.

    1. thank you very much, alex, for exposing the idiots on this website (at least a few of them).

    2. the irony that the commenters above displayed a cavalier attitude about the definition of “cavalier” is simply irresistible.

    3. while the piece is better than what used to be there, i could have eaten 152 bags of skittles and barfed a better work of art.

    i’m still laughing at how stupid some of you people look now. i won’t expect to see some of you around for quite a while.

    08/11 06:14 PM

    Why is my clone hatin!  I actually like the banners.  Much better than a concrete wall.

  • Carl
    08/11 10:34 PM

    You write like you keep that free-dictionary bookmarked.
    Nice work Alex.

  • Alex
    08/12 12:50 AM

    Hilarious… first you try to insult my intelligence then you insult me for sounding too smart for your taste. Pastiche is an appropriate way to describe it, a pastiche is… uggg, what’s the use? You had no idea what I meant by “cavalier” and its clear that you have no idea what a pastiche is. Once again, don’t attempt to burn me if you have no idea what YOU’RE (not your) talking about. Nice to see that you tried to make a comeback! Unfortunately your attempt was pretty lame. ______-a-dummy? That’s your formula? Carl, it is way past your bed time… nighty night!

  • Carl
    08/12 10:21 AM

    No..No ‘your’ on a roll.
    Enlighten us.
    Tell us of this linguistic rosetta stone you call,

    It’s like I’m at the feet of the bard himself here.
    Pearls of linguistics dropping from your keystrokes.

  • Carl
    08/12 10:26 AM

    Bookmarked right under the free dictionary.

  • richardfoc
    08/12 11:17 AM

    Alex, there is nothing in this article nor in the artwork presented that indicates that the artists approached this work with a cavalier attitude. You have inferred that due to the fact that you don’t like the work. Idiot.

  • Alex
    08/12 11:20 AM

    Carl, you’ve already made YOURself (just making sure that YOU’RE beginning to understand the difference between the two) look extremely foolish. Not knowing the meaning of “cavalier” while using incorrect grammar and criticizing me through your ignorance in the same breath, and all. Then you attempt to criticize my statements by citing a webpage from the University of Richmond? RICHMOND!?!? I guess you just ran across that page while searching for the definitions of “cavalier” and “pastiche” and the correct ways to use “your” and “you’re” (oh, do you need me to explain what “self-indulgent” means too? Forget it, you can just use context clues). However, seeing as I just can’t wait to see what brilliant response you have stored up your sleeve this time, I’ll humor you.

    A pastiche can be described as a piece of art containing numerous elements intending to imitate other works of art. Seeing as the piece consists of several different pieces clearly intending to resemble derivative cartoons, a pastiche is an apt description, don’t you think?

    There you go, Carl. Sorry, but I don’t have anymore time for art and english lectures… even though it is quite flattering to be admired by such a wide-eyed, curious being like yourself. If you ever have any questions about words with more than eight letters, you know who to call. Any-who, buh-bye Carl.

  • Alex
    08/12 11:31 AM

    *facepalm*... of course I inferred that, richardfoc. I was stating my opinion on the piece and I felt like “cavalier” was an appropriate way to describe the artist’s attitude. Seeing as we have different opinions (and talking to some of you is like talking to a brick wall) it is difficult for you to understand what I intended to say. You see, “cavalier” is not a term that can be applied in a factual manner… it is a subjective term. When looking at the piece, I see an artist who was reckless and without regard (not a mounted soldier like Eileen Eulich so ignorantly suggested). You have a different opinion about the piece and the artist? Good for you! I don’t care. There’s no need for you to take it so personally.

  • richardfoc
    08/12 11:45 AM

    Of course cavalier can be applied in a factual manner if you take into account the talent and capabilities of the artist(s) in question. In this case I suspect you do not know what these artists are capable of and by suggesting that they approached this project with a cavalier attitude does them a disservice and is insulting.

    I don’t have a problem with you not liking the artwork (to each his own) but I don’t think it is fair to suggest that the artists did not do their best on this project.

  • ben
    08/12 09:53 PM

    “Also Carl, its you’re not your. Bit of advice… brush up on YOUR vocabulary and grammar before accusing another person of being a dummy.”

    Hey Alex, it’s IT’S, not its.

  • Alex
    08/12 10:03 PM

    Oh god… I forgot an apostrophe! HOW CAN I LIVE WITH MYSELF!?!?

    ben, YOU’RE clearly not part of this argument. Well, I shouldn’t be too mean to you… its clear that you were thrilled to catch one typo in my writing… something Carl was unable to do.

  • Alex
    08/12 10:03 PM

    *it’s… same typo again.

  • Carl
    08/13 05:10 PM

    I used to have a 89’ Chevy Cavalier.



  • stretch b
    08/16 07:31 PM

    $2500 is not much to beautify a giant God-awful cement wall.  I’m still mad about the $75,000 for the “time and light tower.”

  • MAS
    08/17 08:58 AM

    I really wish I liked this. I give the students credit for their efforts, and what a tremendous portfolio piece to share!  Unfortunately, the CONTENT of that portfolio—this work—is really unremarkable.

    The fact that it’s on full display in downtown Raleigh, and Hatem paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to make it happen ... goes to show you how BIG projects in this town are controlled by the very few.

    This work is not fit for such a grand scale.

    By comparison, the banners adorning the DPAC parking garage in Durham are by no means “works of art.”  Yet, they aren’t juvenile, unattractive and without context to their surroundings, either.

    Students = A for effort. C for their artistry.
    Raleigh = A for TRYING to be creative. F for the actual result.

    Design-by-committee strikes again!

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  • KK
    08/19 07:07 PM

    what am I missing? I think it’s kinda cool and full of whimsy…NR always reminds me that there are real assholes in Raleigh…. so sad

  • Carl
    08/23 08:29 AM

    No, KK.

    As the commenters have pointed out, the city would rather have an empty concrete wall.

    Art, good or bad, is far too subjective to risk applying to the side of a parking deck.

    And for one person to determine it’s outcome ?
    No committees ?
    Perish the thought.
    Because temporary art need be held to the scope of a team of experts.

    Proud moments, Raleigh

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