Clarksville, Ark. --- Students in the U of O's art department have begun a project led by Professor Tammy Harrington in collaboration with Clarksville Pride to beautify the downtown area along Main Street with a series of mural panels.
“The master at work – Art major Carlos Ramirez pauses before one of the new mural panels he and Prof. Tammy Harrington created over the summer.
Harrington said she was contacted last spring by Pat Curran representing Clarksville Pride, an ad hoc group of citizens concerned with improving the way the downtown looks. “They are the group responsible for the seasonal banners along Main Street, and they wanted to do more,” said Harrington. “One idea they’d had was to find someone to paint murals to improve the looks of some of the empty buildings downtown, and we came up with the idea of doing two-sided panels that could be turned.”
Harrington said she had broached the idea to art students late in the spring semester as a way to gain community service hours or simply to give back to the community that supports the U of O. “I think they want about 20 panels total,” she said. “It’s a win-win situation. The artists get to display their work for free, and people driving through downtown will see an area beautified by the art.”
Because it was too late in the semester to get much student participation at the time, Harrington and art major Carlos Ramirez worked over the summer to produce four panels. “The idea is to produce art that will look good but that can be produced by the artists in a reasonable amount of time,” Harrington said. “Subject matter includes musicians – a guitar player and a singer. Another is silhouettes of children. We did one ambitious panel of a blown-up antique peach label for the Peach Festival. And now we’re working on cars from every decade. Eventually they hope to have the panels all along Main Street.”
She said Clarksville Pride had applied for and received a grant that covered the cost of materials, so that no money had to be spent by the university or the students. “They only have a year to spend the money,” Harrington said, “but we can stock up on supplies that way and keep working for quite awhile on the panels.”
Harrington reiterated the value of the project not only to the community, but to the participating student artists. “It’s a chance for our students to reach out, to practice their art for a reason other than grades, and to show their work to a new audience. It’s artists using their talents to help out, rather than just money.”
The current panels are on display in the windows of the old Bill’s Dollar Store at Main and Fulton across from the courthouse.