Forest of DREAMS Transforming a Community Through Art

A magical forest has sprung up on Wilmington's north side. Fantasy creatures frolic among handprint foliage and towering vines, colorful flowers and fairies.

Created by UNCW and community volunteers, the Forest of DREAMS mural enlivens a 240-foot retaining wall that abuts DREAMS of Wilmington building downtown. The mural’s theme is a reflection of the energy and inspiration at work inside DREAMS, an after-school program that encourages children to express themselves through the arts.

Janna Robertson, a professor in the Watson College of Education, was approached by DREAMS to take on the project. She saw it as opportunity to beautify a somewhat forgotten area of the city.

“Though I love teaching and research, I now believe we can have even more impact if we focus our teaching and research on community public service,” said Robertson.

Jeff Janowski/UNCW

For 12 weeks, more than 600 volunteers spent their Saturdays transforming a 240-foot drab wall to an inspirational piece of public art.

76 creatures designed by volunteers and local artists

Legacy Tree

Dexter James, who lived a block from the Forest of DREAMS and was one of its guardians, suggested a legacy tree to honor residents who had passed away. The leaves were quickly filled with names of individuals who were once a part of the north side community.

“One of my most heartfelt part of the mural was when I had time to listen to stories about their loved one,” said Janna Robertson. “That’s when I realized that this mural is much more than paint on a wall. It was love for the people who meant a lot to us.”

Venita Jenkins/UNCW

“Local neighborhood members, schools and churches certainly have been a big part of this project, but one of the coolest things about the mural is how it’s brought the entire Wilmington community together. It spans all sectors of our community and that’s a beautiful thing."

- Matt Carvin, DREAMS of Wilmington director

Venita Jenkins/UNCW, Bradley Pierce/UNCW and Nekira Woodbury / OUR intern
Wally, a 22-foot concrete alligator, watches over the Forest of DREAMS.
Venita Jenkins Final Project | MEJO 712 Spring 2017
Created By
Venita Jenkins


Venita Jenkins/UNCW, Jeff Janowski/UNCW, Bradley Pierce/UNCW and Nekira Woodbury /OUR intern.

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