BENSON – The Town of Benson’s largest mural is now complete. The field-facing wall of the Lee Street Gym, located at 312 S. Lee Street, was selected by the Benson Art Advisory Board earlier this year as the perfect spot for the town’s third mural. A call to artists was launched in April and by mid-May, the Board had selected its artist for the job.
Raleigh-based Zac Bender owns and operates Brutal Bohemian, an art company that specializes in graphic design, apparel, and — of course — murals. He was hired based on his bold design with large depictions of athletes, bright splashes of blue, teal, and orange, and a general movement and rhythm to the mural that captured the ideas of the Art Board perfectly.
The Lee Street Gym project is Zac’s largest mural (so far) and he had many reasons for applying for the Call to Artists — chief among them was his own Benson connection.
“I grew up in Benson so being able to give back to the community is fantastic and deeply satisfying,” he explained. I also grew up doing two things mostly — playing sports and making art. So, when this all came together, I truly feel this was a perfect project for me.”
If the mural were smaller, the Town of Benson may have considered being a bit more secretive about the painting process and then unveiling the new piece with a curtain drop or some other grand reveal. However, there was no hiding Zac as he worked on the 18-by-97-foot wall.
You probably saw him yourself, making progress on the mural — just over a month’s work in total — if you were in the area.
“So. Many. Gallons. It was probably around 30 gallons of paint and 150 cans of spray paint. It was around 2000 square feet of mural,” he said. “I went through nine rolls of blue tape, it took three weeks of painting after prepping the wall and with an average temp of 95 degrees! It was a monumental effort for me and I can’t wait for the opportunity to do it again!”
The painting process itself was certainly impressive, but the actual art being applied was what attracted the Art Board to select Zac and Brutal Bohemian in the first place.
“The concept for the piece was all around the idea of showcasing the diversity of people that play sports in the park. There’s also the story of the little girl being inspired to play basketball by witnessing a shot hit at the buzzer,” Zac explained. “The mural is supposed to show how individual moments can change lives for the better.”
“My favorite part is the scale of it all. It was intimidating at first, but I really feel like it helps with the impact of the piece,” he added.
The Town, Benson Parks & Recreation, and the Benson Chamber are planning a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new mural at Lee Street soon. Look for an announcement about the event in the near future.
In the meantime, go out to the Lee Street Gym and check out the mural! You really need to see it in person to appreciate the scale and detail and that’s exactly the point, according to Zac.
“What draws me to murals is the ability to create art in a space that is seen in people’s everyday lives as opposed to residing in a gallery. I love the fact that it becomes part of people’s memory of a place. It’s in the background of family photos and also gives identity to the walls that the mural adorns,” he said. “Getting lost in the process of working and getting into that flow state is probably when I am happiest.”
This opportunity was made possible by the Johnston County Visitors Bureau through occupancy taxes collected from Benson hotels. These funds are designated specifically for art and marketing projects — no resident tax dollars were used for this project.
Previous projects funded with allocated occupancy taxes include the mural on the Neighbors & Associates building, mural on the Exxon gas station on Main Street, the mule statue at the intersection of Highways 27 and 50, and the annual sculptures at the Mary Duncan Public Library.