ASU Artist Helps Paint Mural on Montgomery’s ‘Westside’
A new mural painted by an Alabama State University artist, along with two fellow artists, celebrates the rich history of the Westside of Montgomery.
The mural is painted on the side of The King’s Canvas art studio situated in the Washington Park neighborhood along historic Oak Street, a stretch of the Westside where hundreds of Selma to Montgomery marchers passed heading to the State Capitol. The historic St. Jude campus where marchers rested is on that trail.
Artists Nathaniel Allen, chair of ASU’s Department of Visual Arts, and Winfred Hawkins, artist and graphic designer at Arts Revive in Selma, said the mural aims to attract more people to that historic area of Montgomery.
“The mural is of historic significance because it depicts a timeline of the civil rights trail,” Allen said.
The top portion of the colorful mural says Welcome to the Westside and the bottom visually tells the story of the march, highlighting the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, marchers, an abstract reference to the Lynching Museum, the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church steeple, One Court Square Fountain in downtown Montgomery and the state Capitol.
The hues used for the murals are the same colors Marvel uses – bold and colorful.
“The mural serves to reflect the spirit of the westside, beautify the neighborhood and bring people together,” said Allen. “This art serves as an attraction for — and reflection of — the westside’s vibrant community.”
Hawkins describes the mural as unique.
“There’s nothing like it in Montgomery. It shows the character specifically of black people in Montgomery,” Hawkins said. “Because it’s historic, it doesn’t mean it has to be boring. My goal was to embed some of that character and energy about our community and youth into the mural. It’s a happy mural; just looking at the colors will make you smile.”
Kevin King, owner of The King’s Canvass, a nonprofit art studio rooted in economic development, sees the mural as an investment and an opportunity to promote more community pride.
“The Westside had strong community pride long before the mural, so the mural only adds to what is already there. I like to think it uplifts people’s spirits and shows people the historic value of the Westside,” King said. “We have never had anything like this that artistically represents our neighborhood until now. The mural welcomes people to the city, and lets people know they are on the westside where the Selma to Montgomery trail is located. Between St. Jude to the downtown area, there are no designated spots until you get to Cottage Hill. Some people pass right by the same buildings those marchers marched by. Hopefully with the mural, they will stop and have a chance to interact with our community.”
King said that he also hopes the mural will encourage foot traffic along the neighborhood’s commercial corridors and that it becomes a nationally recognized mural because of where it’s located.
The mural was made possible with funding from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and Montgomery County Commissioner Ronda Walker.
Allen said community outreach is a core function of ASU’s Department of Theatre Arts.
“Both faculty and students support the local arts community by participating in exhibitions, workshops, artist talks and attending art receptions,” Allen said.