The BlueKey / Boatwright Murals

One of the things that immediately drew us to 341 East Bay Street for a new Charleston headquarters was the recognition of an ideal blank canvas—the street-front façade of a freshly renovated historic building. Our search for an artist to bring that canvas to life led us to one of Charleston’s great storytellers, David Boatwright.

In a city full of historic and architectural sights, David Boatwright’s works have quickly become landmark destinations in their own right. We’re proud to have supported David’s efforts and contribute something beautiful to Charleston’s storied past. Click on the plus signs (+) below to learn more about the mural and its historical figures.

Raul Conway

Well known throughout Charleston as a “gentle dentist” with a vibrant personality, Raul Conway, native to Sullivan’s Island, was a personal friend of David Boatwright’s. Now unfortunately deceased, he is memorialized in the mural, riding an alligator cart in whimsical reference to the goat cart of Porgy and Bess.

Edwin Gardner

A beloved local figure and big-hearted family man, Edwin Gardner was a development director for the South Carolina Aquarium. Most notably, though, he was an outspoken advocate for many of Charleston’s community and livability causes. Sadly, though he rallied for better biking environment downtown, Gardner was fatally injured in a 2010 bike accident.

Philip Simmons

Once called “A poet of ironwork,” Philip Simmons created a lifetime of beautiful ironwork still seen among many of the most celebrated wrought-iron gates, balconies, fences, and window guards. Mr. Simmons was a recipient of many honors, and is now the namesake of The Simmons Foundation who maintains a community garden in his honor.

DuBose and Dorothy Heyward

The duo shown here includes DuBose Heyward, the author famous for his Charleston-based novel Porgy. His wife, Dorothy Heyward, later adapted the novel into the play Porgy and Bess, and co-wrote Mamba’s Daughter’s, another classic play, with her husband.

Riviera Theatre Marquee

Opened in 1939, The Riviera Theatre showed movies—for many years to a highly segregated audience—until its closing in 1977. The theatre changed hands several times before being leased to the Charleston Place Hotel as a conference center, as it remains today.

Karpeles Museum/Customs House

The building shown here was painted as an homage to the Greek Revival style architecture so prominent across downtown Charleston. In particular, this building is modeled after the Karpeles Manuscript Museum on Spring Street and the U.S. Customs Building on East Bay.

Denmark Vesey

Seen here on one of Charleston’s early streetcars, former slave and freedman Denmark Vesey is known for planning and recruiting followers for a slave revolt in 1822. Word of the plan was leaked, and Vesey was hanged along with 35 other leaders of the revolt.

Streetcar

Unbeknownst to many locals today, Charleston was once serviced by a public transit system of streetcars. These original horse-drawn trolleys were later made into “electrified” streetcars in 1897. By 1938, the streetcars were discontinued in favor of diesel buses.

Jack McCray

Seen prominently in the foreground of Charleston’s past, Jack McCray was a longtime Post & Courier columnist and the loudest voice for the Charleston Jazz scene. Incidentally, McCray grew up just one block from the BlueKey mural, in a housing project that once stood where Concord Park lies today.

Robert Smalls

Robert Smalls was a freedman of wartime Charleston who commandeered a Confederate ship, sailing it—along with naval intelligence information, his own family and others—into Union army possession. He went on to campaign for black Americans to join the army on behalf of President Lincoln, and serve 3 years in the South Carolina House of Representatives.

Brian “Ms. Africa” Seabrook

Affectionately known as “Africa” to her friends and fans in Charleston during the late 1970s. Africa, who was born Brian Seabrook, was a transexual drag performer recognized as one of Charleston’s most vibrant, high-spirited characters of her era. In 1978, she was crowned as the first black winner of the annual Ms. Gay Charleston pageant.

Charleston's Future

David Boatwright’s depiction of the future features a not-so-distant time when Charleston is an over-flooded “venice of the Southeast,” a busy megapolis with high speed trains and fan boat taxis. Any visible architecture not consumed by high waters is alarmingly overgrown. And yet, the people are happy. They’re dining al fresco on a patio dock, cleaning up marshes, and grilling out by the water.

Tourists, of course, are an ever-present fixture, just as natural as the relaxed, contented disposition of the future locals. According to David, “Charlestonians having a good time” is a constant we can count on.

Look here, and another theme comes into focus: that Charleston’s evolution shapes more than just the outward image of our city, but also the creative growth of its people.

Steve Nichols

A close friend of the artist’s, Steve Nichols is an English transplant living in Charleston. Ah, the “perks” of knowing David Boatwright.

Karpeles Museum/Customs House

The building shown here was painted as an homage to the Greek Revival style architecture so prominent across downtown Charleston. In particular, this building is modeled after the Karpeles Manuscript Museum on Spring Street and the U.S. Customs Building on East Bay.

Shepard Fairey Mural

The mural pictured here is a reference to another Charlestonian mural artist, Shepard Fairey. His signature style of street art often features the face Andre the Giant and the word OBEY.

Edwin Gardner

Edwin Gardner is seen again here in the future. According to David Boatwright, “If anyone could transcend time in the story of Charleston, it’d be him.

Riviera Theatre Marquee

Opened in 1939, The Riviera Theatre showed movies—for many years to a highly segregated audience—until its closing in 1977. The theatre changed hands several times before being leased to the Charleston Place Hotel as a conference center, as it remains today.

Charleston's Past

In David’s Charleston of the past, the scene is not restricted to any one era or decade of time. Instead, the architecture, figures, and modes of transportation are reflective of many moments in Charleston’s history.

A blacks-only streetcar runs through the center of Charleston’s past, with prominent civil rights leaders at its helm. Local cause advocates, artisans, and authors are seen on the sidewalks. A well-known drag queen surveys the street scene from her 2nd-story window.

Some figures are known to many, others you may not recognize. The artist’s own friends, sources of inspiration and light to those that knew them, are also immortalized here.

About the Artist

David Boatwright considers himself a true South Carolina native, despite being born in Tennessee and a lifetime of artistic exploration across the country. He grew up in a small midlands town, and went on to experience a whirlwind of artistic endeavors—some academic, some occupational—in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and across the pond in London.

It wasn’t just painting that sparked his interest. Filmmaking, too, was a creative focus of his talents for many years. Everything that David chose to study and create further cultivated his original passion into something much, much bigger. These days, only a wall-sized canvas will do.

Early Charleston Flight

The birds shown throughout the future panel of the Boatwright mural were inspired by Pelagornis sandersi, a new species of prehistoric bird whose fossils were discovered at the Charleston Airport.