Hinesville’s first-ever public art display was unveiled Wednesday as part of the city’s birthday celebration. The display — a large, colorful mural — now is hanging on the outside wall of the old Manna House building at the corner of East Court Street and North Commerce Street.
Hinesville Area Arts Council Chairwoman Leah Poole welcomed community leaders and local residents to the outdoor ceremony and invited everyone to city hall afterward to help celebrate the city’s 175th birthday with cake, punch and tours of the building.
She described the key components of the abstract artwork — a live oak tree dripping with Spanish moss, a radiant sun and a shrimp boat on the Medway River — and said it was the result of 70 man hours of work by more than 30 people.
She lauded Justin Hall, Shayla Jones and Ashley Kuevas for their collaborative design and listed other local artists who contributed to the completed project, including Benjamin Turner, Brian Willett, Elizabeth Hix and Jerry Poppell.
Poole, who also contributed time and energy to the project, teased Mayor Jim Thomas, Mayor Pro Tem Charles Frasier and OMI director Gregg Higgins about their painting skills, particularly poking fun at Higgins, who wasn’t there, about his fondness for green paint.
Donald Lovette, chairman of the Hinesville Downtown Development Authority, recognized the arts council and the city, calling Hinesville “one of the most progressive cities in Georgia.”
“Isn’t today a beautiful day?” Thomas asked, as he commented on the mural and the city’s birthday. “Today is one of those days in the South we call ‘soft’ days. This is a great day to celebrate our 175th birthday with our first street art.”
Thomas joked about helping paint portions of the mural, noting that when he was in elementary school, his teachers were skeptical about letting him use crayons because he lacked artistic skills.
He noted with seriousness that Hinesville has much to be proud of as it celebrates 175 years.
“People who live and grow up here sometimes take for granted how beautiful this place is,” he said, pointing out Hinesville’s growth, despite current economic hardships. “We want to make Hinesville an even better, more progressive place to live.”
Liberty County Board of Commissioners Chairman John McIver admitted he wasn’t sure what to think of the artwork when a preliminary design was shown to commissioners. The building on which it is displayed is owned by the county, so the mural required their approval.
“We didn’t know what it would be,” McIver said, explaining the apprehension commissioners had about an abstract design. “When I saw it, I said, ‘Where’s the Spanish moss?’ Behold, now we have Spanish moss.”
McIver said the initial design had to be revised to add the moss, which he said, showed both the adaptability and creativity of members of the community.
After comments were made, a drawing was held as part of the ceremony for a live oak tree. Local artist Benjamin Turner’s ticket was selected.
After the drawing, couples and small groups strolled along Commerce Street through Bradwell Park to city hall where they found the first floor decorated for a birthday party. Balloons bobbed in corners while colorful ribbons dangled from the ceiling.
Fruit punch and birthday cake were served to all who attended, and guests signed a large birthday card. Lifelong Hinesville resident Jeanette McBride added her signature.
“I was born in Jesup, but I was raised here in Hinesville,” said McBride, who talked about relatives that had worked for the city in one way or another, including an unnamed uncle who once served as Liberty County sheriff. “I’ve got a lot of history with this town.”