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    Authentic: Ija Monet

    New murals are springing up all around Columbia.
    They are brightening up building exteriors with vibrant colors and stories. You’ll find them inside local businesses as owners commission statement walls for their customers to enjoy. Previously unremarkable, dimly lit alleyways are finding new life with artwork. Muralists are leaving their mark on Columbia with each project they complete, and they are creating pieces of art that our entire community has the benefit of enjoying.

     

    “I love the art scene in Columbia because it’s giving creativity and an open mind to the next generation,” said local muralist, Ija Charles. “The art here gives the city such positive vibes when you see it. It’s wherever you go! Driving into the city, walking around, it’s everywhere.”

     

    A self-taught artist and muralist who is only 25 years old, Ija has been painting murals around town for three years. Her portfolio is filled with murals, but she’s also painted Mardi Gras floats in Louisiana, has created live paintings at events like weddings, and paints smaller scale commissioned projects in her studio. The best projects though, in her mind, are the big ones.

     

    “I like working large,” Ija said. “The bigger the project, the better. Murals, busses, it doesn’t matter to me.”

     

    Ija’s first mural in town was at the Interactive Art Park in West Columbia, located in the parking lot behind the businesses at the corner of Meeting Street and State Street. Her piece there, Full of Life, showcases all the fun outdoor things that children can enjoy here. That mural was the start of many more throughout town. To date, Ija has completed 20 murals in and around Columbia!

    Her favorite mural that she has completed is Cayce Wonders. Commissioned and painted in 2020, Cayce Wonders depicts the history and beauty that is found in Cayce, as seen through a young girls’ eyes. Her hair is filled with what makes Cayce unique—it’s history, a bridge from the Timmerman Trail, and architectural elements. Creating the mural allowed Ija to research and discover Cayce, and she enjoyed the opportunity to learn about a town she previously didn’t know much about despite having grown up in Columbia.

     

    “Her expression is my expression,” Ija said. “That’s the same look I get on my face when I reflect on all the great things you can find here.”

     

    Ija draws inspiration from another well-known muralist in the city, Blue Sky. When she was younger and growing up in Columbia, her mom would take her to go and see his murals. She loves all of his work, especially Tunnel Vision.

     

    Tunnel Vision, a mural that has been a part of Columbia’s art scene since 1975, was one of a handful of public art pieces before muralists began splashing the town with their imaginations and beautiful colors. There’s one area of town though that’s untouched that Ija has her eyes on.

    “My dream location would be a bridge,” Ija said. “There are so many great ones, and it doesn’t matter to me which one.”

     

    Ija’s magnificent, larger-than-life murals have done more than simply provide a beautiful work of art for us to enjoy. She’s already inspiring the next generation of artists with her talents.

     

    “It feels good to leave my mark on Columbia,” Ija said. “I’ve always been told that you have to leave South Carolina to be inspired and to create beautiful artwork, but that’s not true. My community has shown me otherwise. I love when younger kids come out to my murals and they want to show me their artwork, or they’re sitting there sketching. I wish I had experiences like this when I was younger! It means a lot to me to be able to inspire the younger generation to create their own artwork for our city.”

     

    Follow along with Ija on Instagram @ija_monet to stay up to date with where she’s painting around Columbia and beyond.