Gallery Director, MSU Department of Art
Small actions lead to big changes. We’ve seen that firsthand here in Starkville.
Starkville, a city heralded as one of the lead cities in Mississippi for art, has obtained more than one large public mural by Michael Roy (aka “birdcap”). It was no small feat getting the world-traveling artist here to create the unique pieces, some of which once lived on the side of the local Italian eatery Stromboli’s.
Although no longer with us, the story represents a small step toward a longer hope for Starkville to show its creative and talented community roots.
Birdcap’s work was the collective acts and vision of the community, the MSU Department of Art, and the City of Starkville. He visited Starkville to paint the first official mural sponsored by the former Mural Collective of Starkville, an informal group started by MSU graphic design alumna Lorrin Webb. A friend of Webb’s, Roy grew up in Mississippi and has spent time creating murals in South Korea and Germany.
To get Roy to Starkville, Webb rallied the support of businesses and the city leaders, including then Mayor Parker Wiseman. However, getting him here was just part of the puzzle: he needed a place to stay, transportation, and extra hands to help get the mural painted. That’s where the community stepped up support.
Through word of mouth, the mural plan spread fast and all those necessary needs were met. MSU Department of Art and the Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge have an ongoing artist-in-residence program that offers free housing for visiting artists, and Michael Roy found a place to stay. For transportation, a group message on the Mural Collective of Starkville’s Facebook page connected volunteers to arrange rides for the artist to-and-from the Refuge in order to paint. Many of these volunteers are staff, students, and former students of the MSU Department of Art. And to help paint the mural, art students, including Thomas McBroom and Dupree Bostic, enthusiastically volunteered.
The spectacular mural, imbedded by the artist with its own symbolism, became a symbol of the community effort. This is true for any work of public art. It represents all those who step up to make it possible. Years from now, even when some public works are no longer with us, the existence (and memories) of public works remain a stunning visible message reflecting an inspired community that loves creativity, art, and working together.
Image credits Lori Neuenfeldt
For these and other works of public art in the Starkville area, please visit www.starkvegasart.org.
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