DAHLONEGA - A woman with a weathered face, silver hair piled atop her head, sits on a rustic porch admiring a patchwork quilt. Behind her, hazy blue mountains and a stream that winds its way between Dahlonega landmarks form the backdrop of a mural depicting the history and culture of Appalachia.
The mural will be unveiled at 4:00 Oct. 6 at the entrance of North Georgia College & State University's Hansford Hall, which houses the Department of Visual Arts.
From concept to completion, the project has been a year in the making and the art students who took part learned about Appalachia and collaboration.
"I found that contribution and sacrifice may be easy to understand, but difficult to practice on a daily basis," said Robby Proctor, a recent North Georgia graduate who spent his senior year working on the project. "You must be willing to share and sacrifice your own agenda or ideals and be fair in the critique and acceptance of others."
The mural was funded through the Faculty-Undergraduate Summer Engagement program (FUSE), a campuswide program that seeks to engage teams of faculty and undergraduate students in research. FUSE is sponsored through the university's Center for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (CURCA). The purpose of the mural project was to research and depict Appalachian culture.
"Researching, designing, and painting the mural gave art students the opportunity to learn more about the rich history of southern Appalachia and to become part of the artistic legacy of North Georgia," said Dr. Pam Sachant, head of the Department of Visual Arts. "With support from FUSE, they were able to work intensely with art instructor Craig Wilson on a project that took them out of the classroom to gain experience in their field of study."
All 14 states in the Appalachian region are represented in the mural in some fashion - state flowers fill a pottery "face" jar on the porch and official state birds, animals and insects are depicted in colorful quilt squares.
Proctor, from LaFayette, Ga., enjoyed the research and conceptualizing required for the project.
"In interviewing a variety of people around Dahlonega, I began to understand the Appalachian culture," Proctor said. "I learned that the true wealth of a community is defined by the richness and diverse traditions of its culture."
Wilson, the assistant art professor overseeing the project, said after compiling stacks of sketches and reams of research, the tough part for the group was agreeing on design. After a lot of discussion, seeing images of patchwork quilts suddenly made the subject obvious, Wilson said.
"We thought a quilt would be a great literal way to get the students' many different styles and ideas in the piece and a perfect metaphor for what Appalachian culture really is," he said. "Appalachian culture is not white or black or European or native; it is a mixture, an amalgam of all of those things."
In addition to Wilson and Proctor, students Ebony Glenn, Ann Marie Lowman, and Jessica Locklar also worked on the project.