Luke Buchanan, owner of Poole’s Diner, painted two murals on the side of his diner. The first is an infamous Instagram hotspot — “All are Welcome, Raleigh NC” the script reads, with an underlying rainbow.
“The original ‘all are welcome’ mural was inspired as a statement against the passing of HB2,” said Buchanan via DM. HB2 — aka the Bathroom Bill — was a controversial bill passed in 2016, forcing everyone to use the restroom that correlates to the gender on their birth certificate — not their gender identity. As a direct attack on the LGBT+ community, protest and pushback came in all sorts of forms, the most popular being the slogan “y’all means all.” For Buchanan, his protest was the colorful mural.
“I wanted people driving into Raleigh, who maybe had never been here before, to know that even if the state has passed a bigoted law, most of the citizens of Raleigh did not agree with it,” Buchanan wrote. “I wanted people to feel like this was a safe place for them, almost like an island of tolerance.”
Accompanying his rainbow message is a mural of hope. A combination of COVID, unrest, and fear has shut down many stores downtown. The sturdy oak tree that’s iconic to Raleigh, with deep roots donning the names of some bars and restaurants in the area. “The idea is that these small independent restaurants are what feeds our city and it’s culture, the Oak Tree itself,” Buchanan wrote.
Besides public murals, Buchanan has a gallery worth of traditional paintings. “My studio art focuses on urban landscapes,” said Buchanan. “My murals are mostly from getting the opportunity to paint on a wall, and feeling like if I didn’t take it I would regret it,” said the artist, admitting that he has direct permission from building owners to paint his murals.
Looking for creative freedom, Buchanan has “the utmost respect for real street artists and the risks they take to be seen”, but in no way should we push Buchanan’s murals to the side.
Whether commissioned or not, public art is public for a reason — to spread a message. While his studio art tends to be more personal to his beliefs, Buchanan’s public art keeps a relatively recognizable theme throughout: “People have a lot more in common than what they have that separates them.”
His public art continues to support the fight for justice and equality across the area, and stands tall with the BLM and Gay Rights movements. Artists like Buchanan are who fuel the creative passion that makes our urban downtown thrive.