EPB on last Thursday unveiled its community mural project, painted along the company’s substation walls in the heart of Chattanooga’s Martin Luther King district on East 10th Street.
The wall panels, honored by EPB and the city of Chattanooga, commemorated the Juneteenth project reveal.
The central theme for the collaboration, “The Soul of MLK–How Artists Visualize the Heartbeat and Soul of MLK in Arts, Music and Culture,” was designed to highlight the history, heritage and significance of the MLK area.
“Whenever we have an opportunity to add something beautiful or place-making to a community, we definitely want to take that route,” noted Elizabeth Hammitt, EPB director of Environmental Stewardship and Community.
An open call went out to local artists in July 2020, to submit bids for a community mural project to be painted along the EPB substation walls on East 10th Street.
The mural competition, hosted by EPB and other local project partners, asked for vision statements and sample images from women or minority artists who lived or worked in the EPB service territory.
In early January, an outside group of community stakeholders selected nine artists–as a nod to the former Ninth Street–to create murals near MLK Boulevard, with a goal of turning a blank canvas into a tribute to the civil rights legend.
The following artists and their submissions were chosen based on the work’s artistic value, clarity of thought, community reflection and relevance to the theme: Jaclyn Anderson, “Barbershop Vignette,” Rondell Crier, “Good Fish,” Josiah Golson, “Head in the Clouds of History,” Keelah Jackson-Harris, “Dr. King’s 9th Street Reverie,” Julius Hubbard, “Dare to Dream,” Harlan Lovestone, “A Dream Rises,” Madison Myers, “Interracial Couple Dancing,” Lauren O’Neill, “The Quilt” and Rachel Veal, “Street Music.”
“It’s really nice to be able to reflect on some of the history of the area so that that history may be preserved,” said Jackson-Harris, an artist-in-residence at The Baylor School and co-founder of Keeody Gallery, located one-half mile from the mural site on MLK Boulevard.
“With this mural, it was very important for me to preserve the legacy of this area. This was the area, even before it was MLK, that was the black thriving melting pot.”
Jackson-Harris, also known as “The Master Creative,” said she hopes those who view her mural will not only be inspired to look back, but also to look ahead to the area’s future.
Hubbard, of Gusto Art and the Chattanooga Fire Department, planned a more abstract vision of Dr. King’s dreams.
“To question what they think they know of Martin Luther King and what he believed,” Hubbard said of how he hopes people respond to “Dare to Dream.”
During April and May, each of the 12-foot-high by 17-foot-wide mural panels came to life with the nine artists replacing gray walls with vibrant colors.
“This has been such a great experience seeing our individual pieces go together,” said Myers, a marketing major who recently completed her junior year at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “It’s been exciting to get to talk to the other people and get to hear their inspiration behind the mural design.”
Featured speakers during last Thursday’s dedication of the nine-panel mural included Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly, ArtsBuild President James McKissic and EPB President and CEO David Wade.
“The Soul of MLK” can be found in downtown Chattanooga at 10th and Foster Street.