Latest mural on Lampkin Street underway

Allison Julien and Gerard Woods paint her mural on Lampkin Street on Saturday. (Photo By Faith Lifer, SDN)

Staff Writer

The latest mural on the concrete wall along Lampkin Street is being painted by local artist Allison Julien.

The mural program is run through a community grant pool from the Starkville Area Arts Council, along with donations.

SAAC Executive Director John Bateman said Julien’s mural will be inspired by the Noxubee Wildlife Refuge and feature goldfish.

Julien said the wide-eyed goldfish will be exploring vegetation found in the South, inspired by her move from California to Memphis, which was her first time visiting the South.

“I felt very much like a ‘fish out of water,' so to speak, trying to find my place in this new world that seemed so different,” Julien said. “At the same time, I was also fascinated by all of the new people, the new environment, and the new culture I was experiencing.”

Julien said this is a feeling she believes many people coming to Starkville can relate to; a feeling of being out of place, yet excited and eager to explore.

“I'm trying to convey this feeling in my mural concept of literal wide-eyed ‘fish out of water’, curiously exploring a new world they've arrived in,” Julien said.

Julien’s mural will be next to another mural painted by artist Joseph MacGown that was finished earlier in the year.

“What we loved about ‘fish out of water’ is the idea that Starkville is growing, and a lot of the people here are not from here,” Bateman said. “It’s also a compliment to what Joseph has already done.”

Julien said each year, Starkville has become more diverse, and she believes the best way to bring people together is through art.

“I've noticed that in the last few years in particular, the artistic presence in Starkville has grown, with more and more emphasis on portraying the unique and creative people that make up this town,” Julien said. “I want to see this movement continue and more creative people come to the forefront and feel welcome and included here. I hope that by participating in this project, I can lend my voice, of encouragement to local artists, creatives, art lovers, and anyone else while also adding a bit more fun to our town.”

Bateman said he and Mayor Lynn Spruill both had ideas for murals in Starkville, but the challenge of public art is coordinating artists, donors and locations for the artwork.

“You’ll have artists who have some really fantastic, amazing designs, but if its in public or private space and money is being donated, all these different interests have a say, because everyone has to be happy,” Bateman said. “It’s really a challenge, but when it happens, its an example of a true community process, and what I love is that it's not in a museum and its open for everyone to view with no admission.”

Batement said Julien is volunteering her time to paint her mural because she is a member of the SAAC board, but MacGown and other future artists will receive a stipend for their work.

“I value our artists’ time, and I want to pay them for that, and it’s an opportunity to keep employed as artists,” Bateman said.

Bateman said the mural program is funded both through SAAC money and donations.

“SAAC has a grant program that gives away about $15,000 each year,” he said. “Two-thirds of that goes toward community grants for things like public art, and one-third of it goes to art education grants, which is micro-grants for art teachers.”

Bell Building Supply has also donated supplied for mural starter kits.

Currently, Bateman said, plans for at least two more murals on that wall, including a project with elementary students, with a goal to have the entire wall painted. After the wall is complete, he plans to search for other locations for public art.

Bateman said he is also designing a website that will feature a map of all the murals in Starkville, including the ones in the Cotton District, that will be finished soon.

If anyone wants to get involved with the mural program, they can contact Bateman at the SAAC office at (662) 324-3080 and submit a sketch of the mural they are interested in painting.