Enhancing Downtown

April 2023
Written By: 
Dawn Bryant
Photographs by: 
courtesy of the Myrtle Beach Downtown Alliance

New murals brighten up Myrtle Beach

Murals like this one, "Give a Child Some Paint," are transforming downtown Myrtle Beach.

It’s not just the blooming flowers bringing extra color to a section of downtown Myrtle Beach this spring.

New murals are transforming bare walls into works of art, not only brightening up the area and creating an attraction, but also serving as the writing on the wall for more improvements to come.

“We believe that the arts are an incredible tool for economic development in downtown Myrtle Beach,” says Alec Hersh, project assistant with the Myrtle Beach Downtown Alliance. “We believe that murals are a crucial step in making downtown feel comfortable for walking and working and eating and shopping in that community. It’s a huge step toward enhancing the long-term livability in downtown Myrtle Beach.”

The first mural, “Give a Child Some Paint,“ artistically symbolizes the transition leaders are hoping to make in an area that has needed a little extra TLC.

The mural features a child determined to brighten a dreary day by adding pastel colors to the hundreds of leaves on the trees, ground and floating in the air. In a symbolic gesture, kids in an afterschool program on the other side of the mural wall even pitched in to help painter Tommy Simpson put the finishing touches on the painted leaves near the ground.

“They were so cute. They had some fun with it,” Simpson says.

He did, too. With more than 40 years of painting experience, Simpson’s work is featured on walls all over Horry County, including the paddle boat and train murals in Conway and the postcard mural in Surfside Beach. He also repainted the whaling wall at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

But the murals along Broadway Street meant a little more to the seasoned painter,  who has called Myrtle Beach home since 1967. As he painted that first mural at 522 Broadway St., he couldn’t help but recall all the memories made when this area was thriving, including the frequent trips to the hardware store and the near daily stops by the Sherwin-Williams store for needed painting supplies.

“A lot of memories in that part of town,” he says. “I knew just about everyone growing up who had a shop in that whole area.”

But as cities started spreading out in the 1970s, businesses–then people–followed, and the once thriving city cores lost some of their vibrance. Now, the Myrtle Beach Downtown Alliance is working with the city’s development office and other groups aiming to bring life back to Broadway Street and the surrounding area.
Leaders celebrated the completion of the first mural in late January, with two more planned to be complete by the end of spring. 

“These murals are just the first step, but they are a big step in getting people to think actively about downtown Myrtle Beach,” Hersh says. “It’s a trickle-down effect that we hope will bring lots of new people and opportunities into the area.”

The momentum is already building.Several new businesses have opened or are moving in the area known as the arts and innovation district, including Lucid Coast Candle Co., Charleston-based Swig + Swine barbecue restaurant, and the Good Vibes Surf Shop.

Simpson is glad to lend his paintbrush and artistic talent to an area that has meant so much to him and many other long-time locals.

“It gives people a visual clue that something is changing,” he says. “It gives people an obvious heads up that things are happening.