To the casual observer, the new mural currently being painted in the Midtown Greenway in Gainesville may look like nothing more than swirls of colors.
But deeper consideration and a little bit of research will reveal the intersecting patterns of red, yellow, black and white have a deeper meaning that is working to bring the community together nearly 50 years after that original artwork appeared on the structure.
The new mural, referred to as the Lost Wall, is the latest project of the Vision 2030 Public Art Committee. The mural is located near the new eight-foot-tall Midland letters on the Greenway, which the committee considers to be the city’s up and coming arts district.
Members of Vision 2030 have been joined by representatives of the Gents Club, a local civic organization; students from the University of North Georgia; Black History Society; Hispanic Alliance and representatives of the Vision 2030 Millennial and Diversity Committee to paint the design on the back of a building on Grove Street.
These volunteers started painting on the morning of June 25 and were planning to work through the weekend. The paint they are using was donated to Vision 2030 from the local business Gainesville Paint & Supply.
According to committee member and muralist Fox Gradin, owner of Celestial Studios in Gainesville and the artist responsible for the layout of the mural on the building, the history of the mural’s design dates back to the 1970s.
Gradin said North Georgia College art graduate Karen Hawk designed the mural in the early 1970s and, as the winner of a local art contest, had the opportunity to bring her design to life. With some help from members of the community, including members of the Gents Club, Hawk painted her design on a wall of the OddFellows Building on Athens/Sycamore Street in 1976.
Sadly, the OddFellows building was torn down some time later and the mural was lost with it; that is, until current Vision 2030 committee Chairman Frank Norton recently unearthed a photo of the wall, and felt led to recreate it. Norton was then able to locate Hawk and obtain permission to recreate the design.
Gradin said that Hawk sketched the design and filled it in with the colors red, yellow, black and white to represent the diversity of the Gainesville community. An article in possession of committee members said that Hawk may have drawn inspiration for the colors themselves from the Gospel song “Jesus Loves the Little Children."
Gradin said Hawk still lives in the Gainesville area and stopped by the project site on the morning of June 25 to see the beginnings of the mural. Gradin said as the two spoke, they were able to make several connections to one another that made it only fitting for Gradin to be the one recreating Hawk’s original design.
“She had actually graduated from North Georgia and I’m a North Georgia graduate, as well. We had some of the same professors - she had the professors as they were starting their careers and I had the same professors as they were going into retirement,” said Gradin. “The year she actually painted this [mural] was the year I was born here in Gainesville, so here I am all these years later actually recreating the same mural.”
Gradin is not the only volunteer with a personal connection to the mural. Nathaniel Shelton, a member of the Gents Club in Gainesville, was one of the volunteers who helped paint the original mural in 1976.
Shelton was working at E.E. Butler High School when the original mural was commissioned and said he was responsible for organizing a group of men from the Gents Club to help paint it.
Shelton expressed his excitement for the opportunity to help repaint Hawk’s design and said it has brought back memories for him.
“It’s incredible, it makes me feel unbelievable because now I have the opportunity to go back and pull some of those old Gent members, who some of them are now retired,” said Shelton. “It really is a great story behind the whole situation.”
Shelton said that the fact that volunteers are once again coming together to repaint the mural shows the community’s longevity in being there for one another, even fifty years later.
“It says that there are some great opportunities here in Gainesville, that can be implemented anywhere, because here’s a group of people in Gainesville who look out for fairness and who look out for the community, working to make the community better and that sort of thing, so there’s great opportunity for both sides of the street, you might say,” said Shelton.
Gradin said the mural is a sign of the Gainesville area transitioning into a more creative arts community.
“I’ve done murals all up and down the East Coast but never in my own hometown, so this is a really interesting development…to try to push an area of our town into an arts community is brilliant and I’m super excited about it, it’s sort of the reason I’m here,” said Gradin.
Gradin said that she expects the mural will be completed within the next week.
Vision 2030 is a community project of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. The committee works to provide opportunities for local artists to showcase their work in the Gainesville/Hall County community. More information about their work is on their website.