New Mountain-Themed Artwork Comes to Palmer

After six days in Grundy County, muralist Britt Flood completed Palmer’s first mural, “Allegory of Hope,” on the side of RISE UP Grundy, which occupies the town’s former post office built by the local coal mining company in 1946. Tennessee's South Cumberland Tourism Partnership (TSCTP) has embarked on a multi-year oral history project, which includes narratives about the mountain’s cultural heritage and natural assets like the Mountain Goat Trail. This is the second mural attached to the program.

TSCTP engaged Tullahoma nonprofit DMA-events, Inc. to implement this mural, funded by the Tennessee Arts Commission. After accepting location applications from the community last fall, the tourism partnership selected RISE UP Grundy as the canvas for the new artwork. RISE UP Grundy provides services, education and training to underserved families, in addition to running free summer STEM- and outdoor-focused youth programs.

Flood drew inspiration from the nonprofit’s initiative to help local youth “rise up” to their full potential through character-building. This original piece she designed for the center “abstractly visualizes building blocks that lead to the blooming of oneself,” she says.

“Each design has a figurative element that blends in or becomes part of their background, referencing the importance of community within each of us,” the artist explains. “The 'blooms' are inspired by native plants, colors, and trail views found in Grundy County like mountain laurel, Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly and Eastern redbud wildflower. The goal of the mural is for any child or person to be stopped in their tracks and overcome with inspiration and hope from the vibrant colors—as well as overcome with a desire to be curious, to learn, to ask questions, to help oneself and to help others.”

The beating heart at the center of the Grundy County nonprofit is to provide students with a program outside of school to gain skills, abilities, and other leadership qualities through mentorships and apprenticeship, while offering exposure to new experiences. Deborah Frost, co-founder of RISE UP Grundy, says the youth in her program were fascinated to watch the progress of the mural installation as it unfolded and interact with the artist herself.

“They are drawn to it and quite proud that it is on ‘their’ building,” she says. “We have a couple of very talented artistic kids in the program, and they want to try their hand at creating their own miniature mural design.”

Frost and her husband Loren, with whom she runs the nonprofit, have big plans for its future: The next steps are the addition of a landscaped skate park, benches for reading and stops along the path for youth art displays. They will host a motorcycle ride from Chattanooga up Suck Creek Mountain to the mural in the fall to help raise funds for the next phase of the project. The center will also be a trailhead terminus for the 35-mile Mountain Goat Trail that will eventually link Cowan and Palmer.

“We talk about hope frequently with the youth, and this amazing new mural couldn't have a more perfect title,” Frost says. “That's what the youth program is all about: inspiring them to dream big and work hard and empowering them to shoot for the stars. The colors remind us of the bright future ahead for this wonderful community and brings a vibrant energy to the landscape.”

“Allegory of Hope” was funded by a Rural Arts Project Support grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission. Last year’s “Lantern Light” by Megan Lingerfelt was supported by TSCTP and a Creative Placemaking grant from the arts commission.

Britt Flood is a North Carolina-based muralist and fine artist who creates moments of tenderness in the public realm. Her work aims to cast a spell of connection and big feelings within the viewer through large-scale painting and mark-making. Flood’s paintings visualize heightened instances of realization and the ephemeral, and her works of public art—which can be found in Alabama, Arizona, North Carolina, Louisiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Michigan, Virginia and Tennessee—give inactivated spaces visual poetry.

Journalists Kristin Luna and Scott van Velsor started 501(c)(3) DMA-events in May 2018 as a catalyst to provide free access to art to rural communities throughout the South, with more than 50 large-scale murals successfully completed to date in Tullahoma, Manchester, McMinnville, Viola, Lawrenceburg, Tracy City, Knoxville, Maryville, Sweetwater, Madisonville, Centerville, Columbia, Nolensville, Nashville and Palmer. All murals DMA has produced can be found here: <>;.

The Tennessee Arts Commission offers a variety of distinct funding opportunities to encourage participation in arts activities in communities across all 95 counties. By purchasing the arts Tennessee Specialty License Plate, you are supporting organizations, schools, communities and public art projects like these across Tennessee.

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