by ARIEL McRAE | Associate Editor
Downtown Humboldt just got a little more colorful thanks to the art students at Humboldt Jr./Sr. High School. A building on Main Street has been covered in a mural representing the strawberry city.
Libby Lynch, art teacher at HJSHS, knew she wanted to have a mural painted on her building downtown the minute she heard Hamilton Glass speak as the keynote speaker at the Tennessee Art Education Association conference. He was there to discuss his documentary called “Mending Walls,” which detailed how he was dedicated to the arts and community engagement especially during and after covid.
“I told him, ‘You’re coming to Humboldt, Tennessee. I’m going to make it happen,’” Lynch explained what she told Glass at the conference.
Just one year later, she really did make it happen. In order to get the mural approved, Lynch had to apply for a grant with the Tennessee Arts Commission. Together they found the Arts Pathway for Youth Success grant, which was designed to help art students experience art outside of the classroom. Once approved for the grant it awarded her and her art students $8,900 to make the mural happen.
From there, it was just a matter of a few zoom meetings with Glass in order to finalize what mural would be painted onto the wall. With each meeting, the students offered their insight as to what should be painted. They all submitted ideas, but the main idea that kept coming back up was the strawberry festival. The students agreed that of the categories they wanted to represent such as unity, community, and Humboldt City Schools, the West Tennessee Strawberry Festival was at the heart of those categories and of Humboldt. They told Glass that it was a time when everyone came together and got along. This was the main inspiration for the final design of the mural.
“It was interesting getting to meet [Glass] in person,” Lynch said. “He is good at working with the students.”
Glass is an artist from Richmond, Va. He has no formal training as he did not go to college for art, but he said he has always considered himself a creative. His medium of choice is spray paint. He has been doing art full time since 2012 and considers community engagement his number one priority. He loves to have the kids involved in every step of the process with the murals he helps create.
“It is amazing that you can go downtown and say, ‘Wow, I worked on that,’” mentioned HJSHS junior art student Maria Orduna. “It feels good.”
The grant was only one part of how this mural came together. C&C Equipment and Jimmy Hill loaned the school the use of the scissor lifts so Glass could reach the highest parts of the mural on the wall. The students also relied on the support of Humboldt City Schools Superintendent Dr. Janice Epperson and HJSHS principal Grover Harwell.
“The design and production of this mural by Mrs. Lynch and her students has been an experience that the students will never forget,” stated Dr. Epperson. “This mural is an expression of how our students feel about Humboldt and the pride they have in their hometown. We are so thankful for this opportunity and appreciate the work Mrs. Lynch and Glass have put into this project to make it happen.”
“We are so proud of our Humboldt Jr./Sr. High students and Mrs. Lynch for bringing this project to Humboldt and seeing it through to completion,” expressed Harwell. “Mrs. Lynch has been able to develop the talents of our students and showcase them in many ways, including this mural. As principal, I am proud of the collaboration and group effort of everyone involved to complete this project for our school and the community.”
The project started Sunday, November 4 when Glass projected pieces of the mural onto the wall while he outlined the individual pieces of the project. From there, the students came for two days and helped paint the lower part of the project while Glass reached the high parts with the scissor lift. It was truly a wonderful collaboration.
“Other artists would have been able to paint the mural, but Hamilton’s special ability to tap into the needs of a community and pull together separate ideas into one design is what made this project so special,” Lynch exclaimed. “His voice guided the students to design a mural that celebrates unity, community and Humboldt.”