A mural – the first of its kind in the city – will soon adorn the Tullahoma Art Center.

Work to decorate the center’s Carroll Street side wall is expected to begin next month and be completed by early August, according to Beth Thames, president of the art center.

The artist tasked with designing and painting the mural is Tara Aversa, who last year completed a mural project in Manchester, depicting the American flag in the shape of a magnolia.

Aversa, who is from Murfreesboro and lives in Nashville, will submit her design ideas soon.

“We are giving her the freedom to decide and have asked for an eye-catching, bright (mural), and something to put us on the map as an art center in the modern world,” Thames said. “It is guaranteed to be amazing.”

The mural will refresh the appearance of the building, while at the same time highlight the significance of arts for the community.

“We will also be taking down shutters, giving the entire building a fresh coat of white,” Thames said.

“This project is important because it will give our art center the facelift it needs and recognition it deserves as the regional art hub,” Thames said. “The city will benefit from a tourism standpoint and the ‘arts district’ will come to life.”

The facelift will also include painting the porch.


Funding the project

The initiative will be funded through a grant.

“The grant is for $6,100 and is awarded through the Tennessee Arts Commission,” Thames said. “It is called the Creative Placemaking grant and is to help build community through art. I submitted the grant and attended a panel via phone conference.

“We defended our case and then received the offer. It is very competitive – there were several municipalities and other organizations in the running.”

Board member Kristin Luna and her husband, Scott Van Velsor, were instrumental in securing the grant money. Van Velsor also serves on the TAC board.

 “I reached out to Kristin about the time the magnolia mural in Manchester was going up to see what it would take to get a mural installed with their help at TAC,” Thames said. “Kristin and Scott joined the board and we all started putting our heads together and efforts toward funding the project.”

The Creative Placemaking grant was the perfect opportunity, added Thames.


Doing more art

Luna and Van Velsor have extensive experience managing mural projects.

“We’ve orchestrated the install of a handful of murals and community events/festivals since we launched DMA (Do More Art) in May 2018, and we’re so excited to finally get to paint in my hometown,” Luna said.

“The Tullahoma Art Center asked us to join the board last year after the first couple murals went up, and I’m so grateful to be a part of an organization that’s rooted in my childhood memories,” Luna said.

Luna’s mother and grandmother were both involved with TAC.

“I spent a lot of time at the center as a child, and it’s a passion project of ours to fix this old gal up to her former glory,” Luna said. “Scott’s from San Francisco and used to restore 1800s homes as part of his job as a painting contractor, and we spent the past seven years fixing up an 1899 Queen Anne Victorian on the Manchester square, so reviving the center aligns with so much of our interests beyond just the art aspect.”

The TAC building – dubbed the Baillet House – was built in 1868.

Luna is looking forward to working with Aversa and seeing the building’s exterior receive a colorful makeover.

“She’s one of the most fantastic artists we’ve met over the past few years, and we cannot wait to see what she creates for us this time.”


Enhancing the environment

Art has been scientifically proven to improve mood, enhance the environment and elevate society, said Van Velsor. 

“Public art, in the form of unique and inspired murals, is one way that we've decided to bring more art to the community,” Van Velsor said. “It's accessible for everyone, 24 hours a day, and serves as an anchor and touchstone for people living or visiting here. The most memorable murals we've seen are epic in scale and they provide backdrops for photography, destinations for outdoor activities, upgrades to a tired building and also inspire youth with big dream possibilities.”

Murals are “much more than a pretty painting,” he said.  “They are a catalyst.”


Looking ahead

“We're excited about doing this in Tullahoma because of the rich opportunities that local buildings provide for placements,” Van Velsor said.

“We've mapped out many, many locations across the area that will make a striking difference once we get a head of steam going on the project.”


Lending a hand

The initiative wouldn’t be possible without the support of the community.

“In addition to the surge in volunteers we've had come forward since making the announcement, Christopher Equipment stepped up to the plate this week to provide essential heavy machinery for the project,” Van Velsor said.

Such partnerships are crucial for the long-term sustainability of mural installations, he added.

Plenty of opportunities exist for individuals who want to help.

 “Locals can help by volunteering,” Thames said. “There are lots of odd jobs that need to be done before the actual installation of the mural. The center is also responsible for a match of $1,500 for this particular grant. Charitable donations in any amount are welcomed, much appreciated and needed.”

For more information, call 931-841-1923 or visit tullahomaartcenter.com.

Elena Cawley may be reached via email at ecawley@tullahomanews.com.