The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

December 8, 2013

An artistic effort for downtown

Special to the Banner
Herald-Banner Staff

GREENVILLE — Many of the most successful efforts to renovate downtown districts across the country have some element of public art, and Greenville will soon be joining their ranks.

Members of multiple organizations have been quietly gaining momentum on the latest step toward transforming downtown Greenville: a large-scale public art project that will combine a mural, sculpture, lighting and a nod to local history.

As individuals enter the square headed north on Johnson Street, drivers are greeted with a space created decades ago that is currently in need of major maintenance, and a grand spot on the right side of the historic Armstrong Appliance building makes the perfect canvas for a new, modern mural.

And it won’t just be a painted mural. It will be one that has been thoughtfully and boldly designed to include a painted background, directional signage, a life-size sculpture of an original Flaming Flash heritage figure, a framed section for changeable art, a metal sculpture attached to the wall and backlit at night, and a three-dimensional sculpture that sits on the edge of the sidewalk.

“It’s going to make a big difference to the look and feel of downtown,” said Cathy Smithey, a local artist who designed the installation in concert with community leaders. “We want to create something that’s both functional and beautiful, attracting the attention of visitors as well as showcasing the work of our many talented Hunt County artists.”

The project started with Milton Babb, President of Keep Greenville Beautiful (KGB); Byron Taylor, Beautification Chair of KGB; and Smithey. All three individuals collaborated with an idea that has been talked about for years but rarely progressed beyond that.

“We decided to round up as many creative people in Greenville as we can to permanently cement the effort,” said Taylor, adding that in order to attract businesses or creative individuals to our town, “we must make a statement that we are a visually creative community. We also must carry out the talk. We aren’t short on ideas. We are short on follow through.”

The extensive mural, with all of its artistic elements, has a current production estimate of $20,000 to $25,000. “The current budget reflects the fact that this is actually six different art projects within one installation,” Taylor said. “It’s not just a mural, it’s a movement.”

This trio of citizens has so far managed to receive support from Jeff Holland of Armstrong Appliance, Keep Greenville Beautiful, Leadership Hunt County Alumni, Main Street Advisory Board, Janeen Cunningham with Calico Cat, Dr. Randall Evans DDS., J.L. Green Insurance, Kim Cartier Photography, Landon Winery, Keystone Southwest Insurance, Digital Solutions, Green Shoot Media and many other individuals in Hunt County.

The Hunt County Leadership Alumni, headed by Derek Price of Commerce, has also helped back this project by planning an event called “A HeART for the Arts Gala” to be held at Landon Winery on Feb. 8.

Tickets to attend the gala will be $50 and include heavy hors d’oeuvres. Artists are asked to produce art with a hearts theme for submission to the auction.

The gala will have a multi-medium art and general merchandise auction by Manning’s Auction Company.  

The event will also include a competition for the changeable art section of the mural.

The winner will receive $500 and will have the honor of being the first artist ever displayed in the installation for one year.

A call for entries by artists for both the heart-themed auction entries and changeable art competition parameters may be found on the group’s website, huntcountypublicart.com.

The group is operating under the umbrella of Keep Greenville Beautiful, which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

They still need major support to hit their goal.

If you would like to buy tickets to the gala, make a tax deductible donation, provide auction items, or would like to have auction items picked up at your business or residence, please visit huntcountypublicart.com, call KGB Executive Secretary Marianne Eubanks at 903-454-1512, or e-mail marianneeubanks@keepgreenvillebeautiful.org.

The group has identified other places downtown for additional heritage figures, sculptures and murals.

If they should raise money above the necessary budget for this project, the money will be utilized for future projects.

“We also plan our gala to be a yearly collaboration,” said Kim Cartier, a local photographer and chair for A HeART for the Arts Gala. “We see this project as a starting point in creating a more vibrant, creative and beautiful downtown business district for Greenville.”