It’s not unusual for an old barn to be reinvigorated by painting a mural on its broad walls. We’ve all seen the old Mail Pouch Tobacco murals that dot the countryside using barns as their canvas.
But in Cameron, North Carolina, a town built upon tobacco farming, the barns take on an entirely different look.
It’s all thanks to New York-based artist David Ellis, who grew up in Cameron and had fond memories of its pastoral agrarian scenery. To pay homage to the place that helped form his own sentiments, Ellis invited a group of artists from New York and Tokyo to paint murals on aging tobacco barns in 1999.
The group was lovingly nicknamed “The Barnstormers” by local residents, which was a nickname they accepted and wore with pride. But their purview wasn’t limited to barns. Farming equipment and tractor-trailers were also riotously decorated with The Barnstormers’ signature graffiti and modern-style art.
In the more than 20 years since the barns were painted, they’ve endured a barrage of hurricanes and the endless Carolina heat. But more importantly, they’ve endured two decades of neglect. About half of the barns are now gone. The remaining barns, about a dozen or so, are slowly fading and decaying. Local antique stores share maps of the barns for visitors.