Alabama’s Rich Culture, History Told on Mural Trail Throughout the State

  • November 5th, 2021
Wall mural called The Serendipity Club, Etowah County by Joseph Giri in 2012
The Serendipity Club, Etowah County by Joseph Giri in 2012

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – An old steam locomotive pulls into downtown Valley Head, Alabama.

A cloud of pale gray smoke puffs out of its chimney, whistling as it billows through the vent cylinder, and dissipates into the star-dotted, midnight blue sky.

The clacking chugging sound of its churning wheels turns into a metallic screech as it breaks on the tracks, and white steam exudes from its sides with a loud hiss as it comes to a full rest outside the Valley Head Drugs store.

Or rather, on the Valley Head Drugs store.

The train mural painted on the wall of the drug store in the DeKalb County town is one of many murals throughout the state that make up The University of Alabama’s Alabama Mural Trail.

The trail encourages tourists and locals alike to explore the state’s rich culture and history through public art. UA’s Center for Economic Development in partnership with the Ala-Tom RC&D Council, the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association and the Alabama Tourism Department, is spearheading the project to create a greater sense of community, drive economic impact and bring people together.

“When the world feels divisive, murals offer an element of unity,” said Candace Johnson-Beers, the center’s director of tourism and community development. “Murals can cross social boundaries, economic boundaries, physical abilities and even language barriers.”

Wall mural of Cullman in the 1880s in Cullman County by artist Jack Tupper, 2010
Cullman in the 1880s in Cullman County by artist Jack Tupper, 2010

The trail offers a diverse set of murals in both urban and rural areas spanning the state. Those on the trail will find depictions of Alabama history and cultural highlights ranging from the Civil Rights Movement to a scene from prized Alabama author Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“There are so many unique murals around the state that show off Alabama’s history, culture and arts,” Johnson-Beers said. “Alabama is home to some wonderful small communities, and we wanted to make sure they are featured just as much as our larger ones.”

Johnson-Beers said murals can reinvent public spaces and have long-term positive effects on communities through placemaking, an approach to planning and design that involves the community and creates a space that promotes public health and happiness.

“Public art can drive significant economic impact by attracting tourists who spend their dollars locally, as well as potential new residents and business investors looking for a dynamic new place to live and work. We’re hoping that this trail inspires city leaders to invest in murals in their own communities.”

The project is working to incorporate all 67 of Alabama’s counties in the trail and is seeking new mural submissions at www.uaced.ua.edu/mural.

Those traveling the trail are asked to take a photo with the murals and post them on social media with the tags @alabamatourist on Facebook and Instagram, and #SweetHomeMurals.

Source

Erin Hackenmueller, Center for Economic Development, eshackenmueller@ua.edu

Contact

Jamon Smith, UA Strategic Communications, jamon.smith@ua.edu

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.