‘Welcome to Hamilton’ mural approved

Shown is artist Missy Miles’ mural presentation board, which she recently shared with the Hamilton City Council. Miles will start work soon on the mural, to be located on the side of A Tiny Mustard Seed in Hamilton. Miles based her design on business owner Savannah Smith’s desire to have a “positive, welcoming and timeless” message for the mural.

By Kathryn “Chazz” Hirschfeld
Staff writer

HAMILTON — Local master muralist and artist Missy Miles of “Miles of Murals” has been approved by the Hamilton City Council to begin work on her 123rd mural.
Located on the side of A Tiny Mustard Seed in downtown Hamilton, the mural will feature many images relevant to the City of Hamilton.
After hearing from Miles and viewing her proposal during a work session on May 28, the council approved funding for the project for $3,832 during a regular meeting on June 3.
Miles provided some details about her new 42-feet-wide by 13-feet-tall mural and how it came to fruition during a telephone interview on June 11.
“Sometimes, when I’m designing a mural, the hardest part is narrowing down the content for the composition,” she said. “Over the last two years, Savannah Smith (the owner of A Tiny Mustard Seed) and I discussed many things that could be on her wall to illustrate everything she wanted.
“Her main goal was that the message be positive, welcoming and timeless. I recommended she search out murals throughout Alabama and find someone who moved her and inspired her.
“She was delighted to find the mural in Hanceville created by artist Donald Walker and that became our inspiration.
“The old-world stylized font of Hamilton will be surrounded by images that are unique to Hamilton.
“Savannah consulted friends and family and all that were close to her and shared her love of Hamilton, and this is the list she gave me.”
 Sketch details
Miles referenced the images on the “Welcome to Hamilton” prospective sketch one by one.
“Sweeping under the ‘H’ is going to be Jerry Brown, Smithsonian artist, potter and good friend. The second one from there is a pictorial scene of White Rock on the Buttahatchee River.
“The third image is the First Baptist Church. Above the ‘A’ in Hamilton is the Hamilton-Sullins House. Savannah shared with me she had fond memories of the home as a child. Someone there would babysit her, and she’d run all over the halls.
“Another scene is of a pictorial cotton field attributed to the family farm, which runs deep in her family. Above the ‘Welcome’ part of this mural is going to be the Buttahatchee River Fall Fest, along with a patch for the chamber of commerce of which Savannah is a member.
“Under the ‘M’ is a scene of kayaking on the Buttahatchee River. We are a river town and she definitely wants it to be a big tribute. On the next section I stylized a little logo of our community of fishing and hunting.
“And flanking on either side of Hamilton are four-inch circles; one with the Bevill State Community College-Hamilton logo and another circle above the ‘T’ and ‘O’ with the Hamilton Aggies.”

Discussions from work session and regular meeting
When Miles presented her sketch of the proposed mural during the May 28 work session, she was accompanied by Smith.
The young business owner opened her doors three years ago and told the Journal Record that having her own store “had always been a desire put on her heart by the Lord.” She said there were many prospects interested in the same location and “it was a miracle to get the store.”
Miles explained she’d met Smith when she was painting her store as part of an Alabama Plein-air Arts event. During the years from Smith’s initial idea of the mural to its recent approval, Miles noted Smith “has been a trooper.”
“She definitely makes a difference in downtown,” Miles said. “She has a beautiful store. I admire her for that. And to have a mural on her wall--what a way to welcome guests into downtown.
“I’m so happy the city has approved the proposal. Savannah’s wall was always one of the murals we’d had in mind for our long-range plan.
“We had talked about pursuing a grant, but Savannah had fallen in love with the project and wanted to move forward.”
Miles said Smith and her family had been prepared to fund the mural themselves, but are incredibly grateful the mayor and council have chosen to pay the cost to emphasize the city’s enthusiasm for not just this first project, but all future murals.
During the work session, the mayor thanked Miles for her presentation, while Miles also thanked the mayor and council for their time. The mayor also expressed his appreciation to Smith.
“Savannah, we are proud you stepped up for us to help us get this started,” he said. “We think the mural will be a beautiful thing for Hamilton. We know the Lord always comes through.”

Another mural also to start soon
Besides the mural at A Tiny Mustard Seed, Miles is also preparing to paint a mural on the side of the Marion County Commission building facing the Hamilton-Sullins House.
This mural will feature the city’s new Buttahatchee River-themed seal, as well as the county’s namesake, Francis Marion.
Details are to be finalized, but city officials have indicated they will help pay a portion of the cost of that mural, too, along with the county commission.
City expresses
enthusiasm for mural
Remarks made during both the work session and the regular city council meeting included the mayor stressing his and the city’s interest in murals and their enthusiasm for  Miles’ work.
He explained the city wants to invite the public to come and see the murals in Hamilton. Mural trails are becoming a huge tourism draw, with murals also enhancing the beauty of cities having them.
He also said that for some time, he’d really wanted to see some of Miles’ work in the city.
Miles said, besides privately-commissioned works by businesses, schools, organizations or individuals, this would be one of her first public art-type murals in Hamilton and definitely her first to be sponsored by the local municipality.
“We want to buy into this project,” Page noted. “We are real interested in this mural happening that highlights Hamilton. We want to fund this first mural at A Tiny Mustard Seed to let everyone know we are in favor of this project. We are so interested in seeing this happen,” he said.
“We’ll look for grants for the other murals as we go forward. And timing and money will be a concern for future projects, as well. But we want to get these two murals started, and we think the city should go ahead and take the burden of the expense for this first one (Welcome to Hamilton) and share in the cost of the other one (city seal and Francis Marion).
 Councilor Wade Williams also noted he was looking forward to the first mural and thinks the location at A Tiny Mustard Seed is a perfect spot for the welcoming, Hamilton-themed mural.
Miles said she will actually be working on both mural projects at the same time, working in stages and in both locations depending on the weather, sun and shade availability. She said she’ll possibly be working on one project in the morning and another in the afternoon.

Planning for
the future
During discussions, both the mayor and Miles mentioned they’d been trying to work together to put into place some type of mural plan for about three years.
Miles has agreed to work with the city to develop its mural plan, with possibly 10 murals to be located throughout the downtown area and on buildings situated along entrances into the city.
Regarding returning to speak with the mayor and council for approval on her latest proposal, Miles noted, “I think it’s important the mayor and council know what’s going on in the community regarding public art.
“It might be beneficial to have some kind of process of getting a mural approved by the city--whether it’s for an individual project or a business or organization project, just so you are aware of what’s going up on the walls in your city…”

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