In a recent profile, we introduced you to Nate Sheaffer—the Raleigh artist behind the Art Box at North Hills’ first installation. Today you’ll meet Kelsey Montague— an internationally-featured muralist whose latest large-scale work is making waves in North Hills at the base of the Overlook Stairs next to Cowfish and Bruegger’s. Her whimsical work is just one example of North Hills’ recent public art collaborative projects. We got a chance to catch up with Kelsey about her background, love of interactive art, and the inspiration behind her North Hills mural.

North Hills Live: How did you get your start as a muralist?

Kelsey Montague: I have been drawing since I can remember. I’ve always been interested in creating huge art pieces that make a statement. In college I dabbled in larger works, but I really hit my stride in NYC. There, I did my first street art pieces with the hashtag #WhatLiftsYou in the lower right-hand corner. Those murals went viral online.

NHL: How long have you been in this line of work?

KM: I’ve been doing art my whole life, and street art for the last two and a half years.

NHL: Where are some of the places that your work has been on display? 

KM: I’ve done pieces in NYC, Buenos Aires, Zurich, Sydney, London, and Hong Kong.

NHL: How do the locations of your murals inspire your works?

KM: I’m so inspired by the places I visit! I put images within the larger image that represents the community I am working with. I love weaving local culture/icons into my work.

NHL: How did you choose North Hills as the location for one of your murals?

KM: Midtown Events of North Hills invited me and I was thrilled to accept.

NHL: How does North Hills compare with other locations you have worked?

KM: I found the people of North Hills incredibly kind and hospitable. I also loved how organized and well laid out the North Hills neighborhood was.

NHL: Did you work collaboratively with North Hills to create this piece? 

KM: Yes, I worked with Midtown Events to establish a piece that would resonate with the community and we settled on a huge tree with a swing.  This tree was representative of local trees in the area and the swing was a light-hearted reminder of the care-free nature you feel in North Hills.

NHL: What is the name of your North Hills work?

KM: This piece is called North Hills What Lifts You.

NHL: How would you describe your North Hills mural? What themes/elements of this piece make it unique to North Hills?

KM: The tree is a direct reference to the “City of Oaks.” I thought an oak tree with a cardinal was the perfect way to pay homage to the great city of Raleigh.

NHL: Tell us about the interactive elements to your murals. Do all of your pieces include an interactive element?

KM: Yes, all of my pieces are interactive. I really believe that art should invite a person into it. All of my art begs people to become part of the work and then to reflect on the question the piece asks. In this case it is “what lifts you?”

NHL: What is the significance of your  #WhatLiftsYou hashtag?

KM: The #WhatLiftsYou hashtag is designed to ask everyone who poses with the piece to consider the question. What inspires you? What is important to you? And then the hashtag invites people to share it online.

NHL: What motivated you to create adult coloring books?

KM: I wanted to give everyone (near a book store) the opportunity to interact with my art! Additionally, I love the meditative quality of coloring for adults.

NHL: What are some of your major sources of  inspiration as an artist? 

KM: I come from a family of artists and I really look up to my Mom and my Grandpa and their work.

NHL: What are some of the best comments you have received on the North Hills piece so far?

KM: Just seeing the way people react to my art and the huge smiles on their faces when they take a picture “swinging” make me so happy.