The Opera House Mural 
Artist: Carrie Johns 
Location: 400 Pearl Street, New Albany

“The Story Behind the Mural” is an ongoing series that provides a behind-the-scenes dive into some of SoIN’s well known (and lesser known) public art pieces.

The sprawling opera singer mural that lives in Downtown New Albany is not only a stunning addition to the vibrant scene of shops, bars and other public art in the area, but it also connects pieces of the city’s past and present.

The mural is located on the side of the former New Albany Opera House, a historic venue that was built in 1866. It stopped functioning as the original theater in 1915 before being gutted by a fire in 1939. It’s been rebuilt and has remained operational over the years, as the current multi-use building features several businesses, including Wine Shop.

Carrie Johns Mural

Carrie Johns, the artist behind the mural, said she wanted to incorporate the building’s past life, but the creation was also a nod to the downtown’s ongoing revitalization. 

“The idea behind it is that she would be singing and the stars that are coming out of her mouth and going across the mural kind of signify progression and growth — that would be the flowers blooming below and the butterflies,” Johns said.

Johns also wanted the mural to be bold and noticeable. 

Opera Singer Mural

“I just wanted something to stand out, with how large that wall is, that you could see from a distance, especially coming up the road,” she continued.

The opera house mural was finished in the fall of 2022. Johns said that she was initially approached by the owner of the building about a year before. The general idea was to incorporate the building’s iconic history in the community, but Johns said she went through three or four concepts before settling on the one that made it on the wall.

Inspired by the Art Nouveau movement, Johns used muted and jewel tones to build a flowing, layered piece that expertly tattoos the long rectangular shape of the building. The opera singer’s voice reaches every inch of the space, recalling the feeling of sitting inside a vintage theater with perfect acoustics. Stars, flowers and butterflies span the space, adding accents and flourishes that pop and twist with color, merging the historical with the surreal. 

Opera Singer Mural

Johns was not only inspired by the Art Nouveau movement, which peaked from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, but also saw a parallel between the rise of the style and the history of the New Albany Opera.

“I just thought it was appropriate because the time that that building was in its heyday was when the Art Nouveau movement was gaining popularity,” Johns said.

And there is also an added detail to the mural creation story that you usually don’t hear: Johns still sees the piece every day, because her art studio is in the building that the mural is painted on. It’s something she takes pride in.

“I was able to move back and forth, and it was really great in terms of being able to store my paints and everything,” Johns said. “So, yeah, I actually get to see it pretty much every day now, so that is really cool.”

Discover the Opera House Mural and more of SoIN’s public art scene when you sign up for Inspired SoIN, a free digital passport introducing you to art pieces located throughout Clark and Floyd counties in Southern Indiana. Visit our passports page to sign up today!

Check out more SoIN murals and the story behind them: