Elizabethton dedicates first mural despite heavy downpour

Published 10:54 am Friday, May 24, 2024

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By Ron Marvel

Star Correspondent

Despite a heavy downpour, Elizabethton officials and administrators gathered Thursday afternoon to dedicate the first of several murals. This one, entitled “Tracks of the Wild,” is devoted to the local flora and fauna of the Appalachian region. The mural is located at 109 South Sycamore St., directly across from the Elizabethton Library.

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Courtney Bean, Main Street Elizabethton Director, oversaw the dedication and spoke about the purpose of these murals. “The arts are important to our community; we look to provide public art opportunities and areas where our community can feel comfortable. We looked at grants and funding opportunities, and our design team was able to find one through the Tennessee Art Commission Rural Arts Project,” Bean stated.

The Watauga Property Group reached out to Main Street Elizabethton to do a mural as an uplift to their building, providing the 800-square-foot brick canvas for the painting. A bid went out to numerous artists, and 21 different painters applied. The board decided to go with Ernesto Maranje, a Cuban American born in Chicago and raised in Miami, Fla. Ernesto has painted numerous murals nationally and abroad, including in countries like Ukraine, Iraq, Lebanon, Greece, and Spain. He has also done a mural in Johnson City. “Tracks of the Wild” is the first large-scale professional mural.

Kristen Cannon, Design Chair of the Main Street project, believes these murals will bring a great deal to the community. “We have been looking to bring in public art because it attracts a lot of tourism and it’s great for the community. These murals are becoming more and more popular across the country,” Cannon shared.

Another mural will be completed within several weeks and will be painted on the old Icehouse, reflecting the history of Carter County. After that, plans are underway for a postcard-style painting. The Elizabethton/Carter County Library is also partnering in this project. As part of the fulfillment of the grant, the project includes education-based initiatives for the local community. The library will provide opportunities for community engagement featuring local wildlife and fauna.

Library Director Bernie Weese sees the relationship between the Elizabethton/Carter County Library and Main Street Elizabethton as a strong fit. “It allows us to attract and reach people we might not otherwise be able to reach and likewise for them,” Weese shared.