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Girls create colorful mural in Gibsontown

Matthew Lane • Nov 10, 2019 at 12:00 PM

KINGSPORT — It’s a rather simple mural. A spectacled girl on a tree swing made of books. Rolling, green hills dotted with colorful trees and barns with a bright yellow sun high in the western sky.

The mural depicts an image you’re likely to find most anywhere in our region. And if you’re not careful, you might just drive by it without even noticing.

Next time you travel down Gibson Mill Road, look for the alley between East Millpond Street and Old Gibson Mill Road. There you’ll see the mural, adorning two walls of a small garage. Susan Bishop, who owns an AirBNB house on the other side of the alley, came up with the mural idea simply as a way to improve the look of the neighborhood.

“It’s an older part of town and sometimes it tends to be forgotten,” Bishop said. “I thought, ‘What can we do with all of these old, raggedy buildings that need a paint job anyway?’ So, I called Girls Inc. They thought it was a good idea and they sent out some girls.”

PAINTING THE TOWN

Initially about 10 girls from Girls Inc. volunteered to help out with the project, which took a little more than a week to complete. As the artistry became more detailed, a few of the girls dropped out. However, work on the mural was bolstered by Leigh Ann Haynes (who lives in the house) and a couple of her family members.

“It’s amazing and I think it’ll change a lot of people’s lives,” Haynes, a 17-year-old junior, said. “You’ll come down here and see it. ... People painting old houses will show what people have done.”

Seventeen-year-old Destiny Dodson, who also happens to be Haynes’ cousin, joined in on the work as well.

“I think it’s inspiring. Kingsport has come a long way, and painting is something that will build the city back together,” Dodson said. “I hope it’ll inspire other people to do (other murals).”

IMPROVING THE COMMUNITY

Susan Fleenor is the outreach director with Girls Inc. and the person who helped identify the girls who volunteered on the mural project. It’s something Girls Inc. is proud to participate in and would considered doing again in the future, Fleenor said.

“This has been a great opportunity for the girls to share their artwork in the community, and we’d love to be involved in future projects,” she said.

In fact, some of the girls already are. A mural is currently being painted at the Girls Inc. office and will be hung on the side of a small shed on Bishop’s property.

Bishop’s personality exudes creativity and artistic expression. A quick walk-through of her nearby AirBNB house reaffirms this through the display of handmade, wooden art (made from salvaged wood) on the walls of the rooms. When it was time for pictures, small paint drops could clearly be seen on her shirt.

When the city of Kingsport launched its second annual stormwater drain painting contest earlier this year, Bishop sponsored one of the artists. The artwork is a stone’s throw away on Cedar Street, was the first residential one and the first double-drain one.

Bishop hopes the mural will inspire others, in other parts of town, to do similar projects in their neighborhoods.

“It’s simple, very community-driven and says to others that we love our area and we care about it,” Bishop said. “When you take pride in your area ... it begins to show and reflect out into the community.”

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