ASU artist paints new mural in downtown Montgomery

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allen mural

By Hazel Scott/ASU

Local artist Nathaniel Allen, who has been making the community more colorful, has completed his latest mural that sits in downtown Montgomery.

The mural was unveiled during a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday, April 14, with distinguished guests giving remarks, including Mayor Steven L. Reed.

Allen, chair of ASU’s Department of Visual Arts, was commissioned by Embrace Alabama Kids, with local support from 21 Dream Arts & Culture and King’s Canvass, to create a mural on the side of an empty garage at 420 Clay Street, located in the same vicinity as the Nat King Cole mural.  

Allen said Embrace Alabama Kids is a nonprofit that helps Alabama kids in need by ensuring they are healthy and happy.

“They wanted a colorful mural to depict diversity, kids, family and a happy community,” said Allen.  “It is one of the largest murals in Montgomery. I had a week to paint it and they let me design it with their focus in mind.”

The result is a wall full of happy-looking kids of all different ages and nationalities.

“It’s a feel-good mural.  It’s a big blast of happiness. There are about 16 characters with really big, cartoony, happy, smiling faces. It’s like they are posing for a family or group photo. Some of the kids are goofy –  a  boy is sticking his tongue out,  a girl is blowing a kiss, and another kid is making funny ears behind other folks' heads,” he said. “The goal was to try to make this all-inclusive and make a very positive statement based on the organization’s (Embrace) idea of helping children. That’s what it is inspired by,” Allen pointed out.

Allen said he would be remised if he didn’t acknowledge local artists and ASU students from Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity who volunteered to assist with the mural. “All did a great job.  I probably would still be painting if it wasn’t for them,” he said with a giggle.

Allen said the group practiced COVID-19 safety guidelines of social distancing and wearing masks.

Allen said he is happy that Montgomery is doing more public art.

“I hope this is the beginning of art being used to revitalize communities in the city – whether it’s a mural or an art festival or chalk art competition – so people can start to recognize the impact  that the  arts have; it can help build communities, help build entrepreneurships and help tourism,” he added.

Allen is one of several local artists who have painted many murals across Montgomery. He recently helped paint a civil rights mural on King’s Canvass, a nonprofit gallery located in the Washington Park community along the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.