Visitors to Hawkinsville’s historic downtown may notice it is a little brighter these days thanks to the restored murals on the Batts Drug building in Cabero Park on Commerce Street. The murals had been hidden for decades by a brick wall erected on the side of the building and were only exposed following concerns about the wall’s stability.
The owner of Batt’s Drugs in the adjacent building notified the city that the brick wall was starting to separate from his building. This was a potential liability for the city and it was decided to remove the wall altogether.
When the city began to tear down the crumbling brick, the murals beneath were revealed, exposing a flavor of the culture and commerce of pre-World War II Hawkinsville. The city realized what a great hidden treasure the murals represented and decided to get them redone.
Thanks to the connection with the University of Georgia Pulaski County Archway Partnership, Hawkinsville was connected to UGA Lamar Dodd School of Art Professor Joseph Norman and a student group called Color the World Bright.
“Color the World Bright is just designed to bring color and brightness into the world. It is an organization that believes that through art you can change the lives of a community, you can change the lives of students and in so doing that, you can change the world,” said Professor Norman.
According to Hawkinsville City Manager Sara Myers, no one is really certain as to why the murals were originally covered. Myers looked back through city minutes starting in 1987 when the park was originally donated to the city and found no mention of murals.
“It is a bright display of colors that is very eye catching when you are travelling along Commerce Street. The restoration adds so much to our downtown and we are very proud of the “facelift” the mural received,” said Myers. “Several people visited the art group while they were painting and watched them perform their magic. We have received nothing but positive feedback on this project. Archway again did not disappoint, they are a valuable asset to our community.”
The student painters are committed to not only livening up the world through art but the work also helps them develop business skills of developing a budget, planning out supply lists and time management.
“In addition to enriching my own life and my teaching, the high school kids that I teach, we are teaching college students how to build businesses and brands, how to market your own work, how to work successfully. As much as we give to the community, they give back to us in other life skills. To see that kind of come full circle is awesome.” said Katie Eidson, student leader of the Color the World Bright group.
Planters First Bank, located in the building across the park from the murals, donated snacks and drinks to the student workers while they were in Hawkinsville working. Bobbie Clemons, senior vice president at Planters First, was enthusiastic about the mural refresh and what it means for downtown.
“This restored mural will add yet another positive dimension to our downtown’s landscape and ongoing/future beautification by preserving another part of our town’s history. This mural not only adds a visual attraction for us locals to enjoy but also for those visiting our town and for those passing by – it might be one of the points of interest that causes those passing through to get out and explore our downtown, city & county,” said Clemons.