Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

First Macon Mural Festival plans to paint the town with creativity

Macon Arts Alliance selected artists to create new downtown murals over 3-day festival in September
Grant Blankenship GPB
Artist Steven Teller’s mural of H&H restaurant founders Inez Hill and Louise Hudson with their famous Allman Brothers Band patrons has become an attraction for the band’s fans, according to the Macon Arts Alliance that is working to bring more murals to downtown.

Macon’s music heritage may be well known through the talents of megastars like Otis Redding, the Allman Brothers, Little Richard and Jason Aldean, but the Macon Arts Alliance also wants to put the city on the map for its visual artwork.

Next month, muralists from as far away as the Rocky Mountains will be leaving their artistic mark on five spots in downtown during the inaugural Macon Mural Festival Sept. 8-10.

Earlier this year, MAA issued a call for artists to come and spend two days painting at pre-approved locations. A $1,000 stipend covers their expenses.

MAA’s project director, Bo Walker, said more than 30 artists responded and a jury selected a handful who were invited to participate in this inaugural event.

“We have a really good mix of men and women,” Walker said. “It’s a really good diverse group of artists as individuals and the type of work they produce.”

The painted brick wall next to Oliver’s Corner Bistro will be transformed during the Macon Mural Festival Sept. 8-10. (Liz Fabian)

Art will be created on the Poplar Street wall of Oliver’s Corner Bistro, the drive-thru of Synovus bank on Mulberry Street, Fall Line Brewing Co. on Plum Street, Triangle Arts, and the bathrooms of the skate park at Carolyn Crayton Park.

The public is invited to watch the artists work that Friday and Saturday. Maps for the free event will be available at the Arts Alliance gallery at 486 First St.

The map will also feature the city’s existing murals, including the massive tribute to the founders of the H&H Restaurant and the Allman Brothers who frequently dined there as they rose to fame in the 70s.

“The H&H mural was a great eye-opener for just people who do not know about the arts in Macon. Like, ‘Oh that’s cool. We need to go see that,’” said MAA’s Curator Sierra Bush. “So, making art an attraction where it brings people in, brings people together, is one of our goals.”

Triangle Arts owner Ric Geyer, who helped sponsor the festival, will host the festival’s Celebration Party on his four-acre site in the old Tybee neighborhood that features the area’s largest collection of street art. All the murals will be unveiled Sept 9, including the one that will be painted by Lawrenceville’s Nicole Merizalde at Geyer’s creative hub.

Geyer also serves on MAA’s board as vice president, treasurer and its membership chairman. During the celebration, he plans a special VIP party area with food and beverage for patrons of the organization, which fosters and supports artists across Middle Georgia. Various levels of membership, sponsorship and benefits, ranging from an annual $100 to $5,000, are available on the website.

“When I look at that gallery, I think of Macon Arts Alliance being that building, and that’s not right,” Geyer told the board at last week’s meeting. “That’s one tiny piece of what we do.”

He aims to increase the passion and level of knowledge about Macon’s arts community by luring more supporters into the organization.

Macon’s 567 Center hosts the First Street Wine & Art Festival Sept. 8-10 and will hold a painting workshop with muralist Kevin Scene Lewis. (Liz Fabian)
Kevin Scene Lewis painted the murals at the Woodward Hotel, including this portrait of Alice Walker. (Liz Fabian)

The Macon Mural Festival also coincides with the First Street Art & Wine Festival sponsored by Just Tap’d and the 567 Center for Renewal, which are neighbors of the MAA gallery.

During the festival weekend, the 567 Center for Renewal will host a class on spray painting techniques led by artist Kevin Scene Lewis on Sept. 9 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. For $35, participants will practice on the graffiti wall at the Center at 456 First St.

The entry fee covers all materials needed for the class.

Lewis, who painted the murals near Quill at the Woodward Hotel, will share his techniques that can be applied to murals, graffiti art and signs. Space is limited, so those interested are encouraged to book a spot through the website

Bush said they hope to encourage the Art & Wine festival goers to participate in the MAA festival, too,

“People are just free to walk around and look at the murals as they’re being painted,” Bush said.

Will Barker of Denver, Colorado, will be the featured mural artist who will be painting the skate park bathrooms.

MAA Executive Director Julie Wilkerson told her board that skate park project is a test to see if the artwork will help reduce vandalism that has plagued the facility in the past.

Walker said he’s not only looking forward to this first mural event, but the lasting impact the artwork could have on the community, and the potential for future festivals to be even grander.

“One of the things that’s been really cool is all the really big and exciting ideas that have been thrown out, which a lot of times in a first annual can be a little bit bigger than you might be able to accommodate in that initial year,” Walker said. “So, part of my excitement is not just for next month and this coming festival, but the subsequent festivals and our opportunities to continue pulling in really big talent.”

Allison Dunavant, of John’s Island, South Carolina, will be painting at Oliver’s, Carlos Jefferson of McDonough will be transforming the Synovus drive-thru, and Christian Stanley of Winter Springs, Florida, will be painting at Fall Line.

Kevin Scene Lewis’ portrait of Flannery O’Connor outside the Quill lounge at the Woodward hotel is one of a growing number of murals in downtown Macon. (Liz Fabian)

In addition to brightening up downtown, instilling pride in the community, and boosting the city’s reputation as a vibrant and creative destination to visit, Walker said the art can have other benefits.

“There have been studies that have been done on the effects of public art on communities and the ways in which they can reduce crime, reduce traffic-based fatalities and that kind of thing. So, I think there’s also not just kind of the cultural aspect of having murals and public art out and about. I think there is also a tangible impact that those things can have on a community,” Walker said.

MAA gave artists creative freedom in this first festival, but future events could have themes as they branch out beyond downtown, he said.

Macon’s current public art locations are mapped out on the website.

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.

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