By Kathryn “Chazz” Hirschfeld
GUIN — As you travel along U.S. Highway 43 in Guin from east going west, a remarkable sight meets your eyes.
Displayed on the side of the Guin Post Office is a strikingly beautiful and colorful mural spelling out the name of the city.
As you continue driving, you might see three other murals in the city, all painted by artist and master mural painter Missy Miles.
But there’s a big difference between this mural and her 115 other creations. This mural was not commissioned by a city, a county, a person or a business.
This mural was commissioned by high school students. The preliminary art design was created by one of the students, Gracious Webb, based on her classmate’s favorite landmarks. And students raised the funds to pay for the mural to be completed.
Clearly visible inside the bright letters of the “Guin” section of “Greetings from Guin” are local landmarks, like the water slide, the 3M logo, the Frosty Front bear, Country Corner, the elementary school and the high school.
There’s also signage for McGuire Drugs, with the water fountain in the foreground, and a trophy representing the award-winning Class of 2023’s multiple state sports championships.
Winding through all of the letters are train tracks acknowledging the city’s ties to its namesake, Dr. Jeremiah Guin, who made the original deal with a railroad company in 1886, to put Guin on the map.
Webb said her favorite element of the mural is the letter "U.”
“The colors of the autumn leaves complement the water, sunset and McGuire Drugs’ sign perfectly,” she said.
Webb said she and her classmates were inspired by small-town murals from around the U.S. to create a classic look.
“Designing a mural is a collaborative and thoughtful process that helps to showcase the elements that resonate with the community,” she said. “Although I illustrated the design, I didn't do it alone. My classmates helped me to brainstorm and create ideas.”
Webb said as the students gathered as a group, they’d share their thoughts and then she’d draw them.
“It took me a week to line, color and shade the final design, which was a really fun and enjoyable process.”
A learning experience
Guin’s latest mural began as a government class project for honor students of the Marion County High School’s Class of 2023.
History teacher Courtney Lee wanted her students to see how government works in person.
She invited Guin Mayor Phil Segraves in to speak to her class about the Alabama Mural Trail and the North Alabama Mural Trail.
After the mayor’s visit, Lee said the students came up with the images they wanted in the mural.
“The students then went to the city council and presented their ideas,” she said. “And they sold t-shirts with the mural printed on them to help fund the project. It was completely done by the students and then, obviously, painted by Missy, who is fantastic.”
Lee said seniors Austin Berry and Lynsey Spann were the students who took the mural idea before the Guin City Council for approval.
“They presented it, and they did fantastic,” she said. “They got up there and spoke before the city council like they were pros. They were so confident in their speaking.
“The mural was completely student-led, and it looks so good. They did a great job on it. Gracious designed it with all the students’ ideas from the first time to her final design.
“I’ve had Gracious from 10th to 12th grade and she’s always been a great artist. She’s very talented. She drew up that design with the ideas that the kids gave her. They chose, what to them, makes Guin, Guin.”
Lee is proud of the results of her students’ hard work. She said she’s glad her students are able to now see the result of their hard work in the community.
“Hopefully, that’ll influence them as they get older, to continue to give back to the community,” she said.
Lee is also grateful to everyone else involved in the project.
“I’d like to give a special thank you to the city council and mayor Segraves for supporting the school and jumping on board,” she said.
“This was a student-led effort, but we also had great community support. Everyone definitely supported the kids in this. And we’re so appreciative.
“And also, Missy. She needs recognition for what she does. Missy’s work is just breathtaking to look at. Gracious did a great job of drawing, and Missy did a great job of painting.
“The mural couldn’t have been done without her amazing artistic ability. I hope Missy can be highlighted, too, for her work. She’s done so many beautiful murals. We’re so appreciative to get to work with Missy. She’s done so much with the mural trail.”
Miles has more than three dozen murals between the North Alabama Mural Trail and the Alabama Mural Trail.
Webb also shared her appreciation for those involved in the project.
“Art has always been a part of who I am,” she said. “I feel extremely honored to have been given the opportunity to share my art with the community through this mural.
“I'd like to express my gratitude to my family, friends, classmates and superiors for their support, in not only the creation of the mural, but also in my creative journey as an artist.
“This mural was a great experience, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to have done it. This town is very special to me, and my family and I thank it for helping me to grow.”
See complete story in the Journal Record.