What began as a vision to remedy an eyesore at the west gateway of the square, the Mural Project, as it has been termed, has manifested into a soon-to-be-loved commons area for the City of Fayetteville.

This brainchild of Melanie Laten, a lifelong artist and teacher of the arts, was first conceived in January of this year and quickly gained the support of leaders and art advocates alike, bringing the Fayetteville-Lincoln County Arts Center together with various individuals and groups planted around the city to bring something new and uplifting the Fayetteville. Amazing, it is, how an artist’s eye can stir passion in a community — for the community — resulting in a joyful addition to the local environment.

Laten saw the potential for this area tucked perfectly between a public parking lot and merchant shops along the west side of the square as she drove up the hill day after day.

“Our square is beautiful and inviting, but that open wound at the top of the hill made me cringe when I’d stop at the red light,” she said. “The historic buildings are special, but all those wires and cords and different color paint jobs on the backside cried out to me. I had to do something about it!”

After bringing her idea to friend, County Mayor Bill Newman, the Creative Placemaking Grant from the Tennessee Arts Council was introduced. Grants like these make it possible to obtain funds for community development projects like reviving an unloved area and making it a common space for all to enjoy that is not only aesthetically pleasing but becomes a place to meet friends, enjoy a picnic lunch or simply take a breather.

Newman connected Laten with Sarah McLeod and Lorie Fisher of the South Central Tennessee Development District for the grant-writing process. Immense thanks to these ladies, for without their time and involvement, this project wouldn’t have gained traction to establish a budget. The Tennessee Arts Council approved this grant in March and a happy dance ensued as pre-planning sessions were already underway with Lenace Vaughn of the City of Fayetteville, the merchant shop owners and other contributors.

Laten had already accomplished the project board after determining what kind of mural would best compliment our beloved historic city square, gravitating to a beautiful image of the westside square in the 1920’s. The process of reviewing codes and regulations, gaining permissions from owners before discussing building paint colors was a wonderful fellowshipping experience. Bringing these unacquainted folks together for this like purpose resulted well and eliminated the necessity of certain permits. What community joy!

As project details solidified, supporters began connecting dots to get the right folks in on the fundraising and contracting aspects, and before long, the train was pulling out of the station. Big thanks to Kyle Hamlin with Pristine Painting for your epic contribution to get the buildings painted on a charitable dime and thank you to Leadership Lincoln for your contribution to the budget!

While all these facets of the project were going on, Laten was hard at work with her amazingly talented young artists, Sophie Buck, who was a FLCAC Scholarship winner, Sarah Hammel and Chayton Stephens painting the 12 panels that would construct the 16- by 24-foot mural.

Weekly paint sessions kept the momentum going, and along the way, many other individuals, including City Mayor Michael Whisenant, stepped in to add paint to several panels. This really did turn into a community endeavor which is in the Arts Center’s mission. It takes a lot of skill to get paint marks to line up on 12 separate panels to create a flush image when finally pieced together. The final product is a captivating display of the monochromatic nature of the 1920’s photograph with some colorful highlights to really bring the image to life. You’ll find a happy puppy playing in the street as well; he represents the joyfulness inherent in community.

While the vast majority of the timeline progress has not been visible to the public, the most recent phase has indeed created some buzz. Big thanks to Will Richardson, the main installer for the mural’s support structure. The material evaluation took a turn while the train was full steam ahead, but he finessed the changes with grace. Thank you to everyone who stepped in to lend special hands for the install process, including Gardners Choice for donating labor and equipment to break the concrete and get the steel set as well as the collaborators involved in testing the structural integrity of the framework to ensure its capacity to support this epic mural for decades to come.

Dear community, we invite you all to come out and celebrate the Mural Project with us on Friday, Nov. 1, at 5 p.m. as we reveal the mural in its full form for the first time! Stay tuned in the weeks following as Leadership Lincoln and other contributors work to spruce up the area with planters, benches and lighting, making it a creative place to welcome and inspire. One final thanks to everyone who has contributed to this project. Not one individual body or dollar goes without immense appreciation. Thank you.

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