NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- A cold wind blowing through cloudy skies on Rivers Avenue doesn’t stop Allison Dunavant’s day at work.
The Lowcountry muralist is painting the side of an historic building in North Charleston and needs to finish before a tropical storm comes through.
She spends most of her day on a boom lift, with her co-worker Christine Crawford, painting what will be a parrot taking flight and a woman surrounded by leaves of different colors.
“This is a very community based piece,” said Dunavant. “We wanted to bring some color to this area and have something that the residents can really be proud of.”
But, having a slab of brick or concrete as her office for days on end was not Dunavant’s original plan even though a paint brush has always been her best friend.
“I always loved doing portraits,” said Dunavant.
After graduating from college, Dunavant decided that she wanted to teach art at a university.
“I started doing that and didn’t like it. I went into banking and insurance,” said Dunavant.
One dead end became two.
“I was miserable. I would always sit at my desk and look out the window and want to be outside,” said Dunavant. “I randomly quit my job during my lunch break and decided that I wanted to be self employed. It was kind of terrifying to make that decision.”
Alli began painting murals among smaller forms of art, but she wasn’t making large scale projects her full time job until the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Now would be a great time to start growing bigger,” said Dunavant. “It’s taken off with word of mouth and referrals. It’s been quite a learning process going from painting small to painting large.”
Dunavant has painted murals at Low Tide Brewing, The Medical University of South Carolina, Red’s Ice House, Saltwater Cowboys and an Airbnb in Park Circle among other projects.
“A lot of times I’m in shock that this is what I get to do everyday, that this is my actual job. We’re doing at least a mural per week. That there’s a demand for it is amazing,” said Dunavant. “Every time that you’re out painting it’s a very public thing. People are coming up and talking to you. You’re getting to know different people.”
Dunavant’s brush strokes have been noticed by many, but the most important connection has been with Crawford over Instagram. Their joint business venture, ‘Girls Who Paint Murals,’ was formed shortly after they met.
“We’ve painted over 50 murals so far in a year’s span,” said Crawford. “We’re just a team of muralists. We travel all over. It kind of comes naturally to us and I think that’s why we work so well together.”
The two women are also trailblazers in their field.
“I think it’s a very male dominated business and that’s where I think we stand out,” said Crawford. “I think having to operate boom lifts or scissor lifts and climbing on ladders you have to have a lot of stamina for that.”
“We’re on construction sites. We’re on equipment. We’re going in paint stores. We’re up on ladders,” said Dunavant. “We’re basically like contractors as well.”
The group wants to break down the stigma of women getting intimidated by the male dominated industry. They see every mural as a sign to women that they can follow their artistic dreams.
“I’m so happy when I see a female artist come through,” said Crawford. “If you don’t take a risk then what is life? Even if you fail it’s a learning curve of getting back up and going again.”
“No matter what the medium is I think women should recognize that it’s something they can do full time,” said Dunavant.
As the sun peaks out over the Lowcountry and the mural’s finishing touches are painted on, both women take a moment to admire their work that could inspire the next artist.
“Finally seeing (a mural) some to fruition is like Christmas morning. You get very excited and then you start thinking about what can I do next,” said Dunavant.