Murals aim to enhance history, tourism

Published 4:55 pm Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Murals, large, painted pictures most commonly found on indoor walls, are beginning to appear on the walls of buildings in several area cities.

The trend started in Dothan, Ala., about 55 miles west of Bainbridge on U.S. 84, where cultural leaders have commissioned 19 murals in the city’s downtown area. The murals, which depict the history and culture of the Wiregrass region of Alabama, Georgia and Florida, have gained enough acclaim that Dothan has been dubbed “Alabama’s Mural City.”

Local fishing expert Jack Wingate, “The Sage of Lake Seminole,” is featured on one of Dothan’s murals.

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The city of Colquitt, Ga., located about 20 miles north of Bainbridge on U.S. 27, now has 12 “Millennium” murals of its own and hopes to become known as “Georgia’s First Mural City.” Colquitt’s enthusiasm for murals, which depict stories from its home-grown “Swamp Gravy” folk arts play, has culminated in local leaders’ plans to host the Global Mural Arts Tourism Conference there in October 2010. The conference’s organizers expect international visitors, as previous events have been held around the world every two years.

But Colquitt isn’t alone in its love of murals, as the city of Blakely, Ga., is also getting in on the act, having started work this summer on its second mural, according to the Early County News.

The community-sponsored Blakely Mural Program plans to strategically place murals around the city in an effort to enhance its aesthetics, while preserving its history. Blakely also plans to participate in Colquitt’s mural festival.

Decatur County has commissioned some murals of its own.

A small two-dimensional fleet of classic World War II airplanes will soon be a standing feature for pilots to admire as they visit the Decatur County Industrial Airpark.

County Administrator Tom Patton, a retired marine corps aviator and 30-year military pilot, had the idea for the airport murals, which were painted by an inmate at the Decatur County Prison.

The desire to preserve history through art extends beyond murals to pictures and other sentimental objects. For many years, Bainbridge residents have collected Christmas ornaments designed by local artist Mary Barber Cox, who has sketched a number of historical buildings and homes.

Decatur County school officials plan to put citizen-submitted photographs celebrating the community on the walls inside the new Bainbridge High School.

Blakely’s newest mural, which commemorates Kolomoki Mounds, a Native American site in Early County, is being painted on the outside of the Early County Museum, which opened in 2007 on North Main Street in Blakely. The new mural will complement another Native American-themed mural located inside the museum, which incorporates an authentic dugout canoe. The canoe was found in the muddy bottoms of the Spring Creek near the town of Damascus in Early County during a drought period in 1986, according to the Early County News. A similar Native American canoe found in the Flint River formerly was displayed in Bainbridge’s Firehouse Center and Gallery, but has since been moved to the Southwest Georgia Welcome Center on Dothan Road.

This article includes some information compiled from the archives of the Miller County Liberal, Early County News and The Post-Searchlight.