Local women create colorful new ‘garden’ on the Tweetsie

Published 3:24 pm Thursday, September 17, 2020

Can you plant a garden on a block wall?
“No problem” says two Elizabethton women.
But Kathy Campbell and Marcia Ross never used a shovel or a hoe to make their garden. They used paint brushes.
Campbell, Community Engagement Director for Northeast Community Credit Union, and Ross, a retired art instructor and owner of The Art Space at Five One Eight “planted their garden” with lots of colorful paint on the Tweetsie Trail side of Sloan’s Auto Shop, a one-story block structure located at 411 East Doe Avenue.
The recently completed mural covers the entire north side of the building and features a vibrant garden brimming with native flowers, birds and butterflies. It is something cheerful and beautiful to look at, for both visitors to the downtown area and those walking along the Tweetsie, Campbell says.
“I hope this is just the first of many more murals to come in downtown Elizabethton,” Campbell said. “Hopefully this will inspire others who have blank walls to do something beautiful.”
Campbell said she had wanted to do a mural on the building she and her husband, Scott, own for a long time because of where it is located and because of her love of art and creating things. When the Tweetsie Trail opened and gained popularity, she felt even more strongly that it was a good idea.
“Lots of people get on the trail in Johnson City and ride to Snap-On every day. They go right through downtown Elizabethton and a lot of them stop and have lunch on the way. I think it’s important to do anything we can to beautify that experience, to make their time along the Tweetsie in Elizabethton something they remember and go home and talk to their neighbors about. Art is such a great way to do that.”
The mural project took Campbell and Ross about three weeks to complete, starting in mid-August and finishing the first week in September.
Having done backdrops and murals before, large format art is in Ross’ wheelhouse. Right before tackling the Elizabethton mural, Ross revitalized the large train mural at Bluff City’s Riverfront Park.
“When Kathy asked me to work on this project with her, I said, ‘Oh sure! I love that kind of thing,’ Ross said. “Unfortunately we picked the hottest month of the year to do a mural outside, but we figured out when the area would be shaded the most and we just tackled it little by little.
“It really wasn’t that hard,” Ross added. “After we decided which flowers we would use, I designed the mural by sketching it out to scale. We also were inspired by our friend, Vera Peters, to add butterflies, which she loves. We decided which flowers would go where depending on their colors and height and we just started slapping on some paint. Sometimes it took a few layers to cover up the mistakes,” she laughed.
Campbell says she would love to do more projects like this one throughout the community and has already had others show interest.
“Hopefully in the future we can incorporate more people who paint and draw, and build a team of like-minded people,” she said.
Ross also says she is up for more murals and already has several ideas in mind for designs and locations.
“I keep looking at walls — especially along the trail — and thinking of what should go on them,” she said.
Both Campbell and Ross also wanted to add their thanks to the local Sherwin Williams store where they bought their supplies.
“We had to buy paint, concrete filler and sealer,” Campbell said. “We were so surprised when they gave us a huge discount just because they said they appreciate what we are doing to beautify downtown.
“That’s what so special about where we live,” she added. “People care. They want it to be special.”

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