Even to this day, people can still see the results of what the United States did for its people during the Great Depression. Called the WPA, The Works Progress Administration was the largest and most ambitious American project ever. Constructive and positive, the WPA employed millions of people to carry out public works projects, including the construction of public buildings, parks and roads.
In a much smaller but more famous project, Federal Project Number One, the WPA employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts (murals), drama, media, and literacy projects. Almost every community in the United States had a new park, bridge, public art mural or school constructed by the agency, including Elkin.
Here in western North Carolina, the public arts project, called the Appalachian Mural Trail, is looking to put local artists to work on large public historical murals. These murals are intended to encircle the Blue Ridge Parkway and draw in visitors to the towns and communities where the outdoor murals are located, helping the economy through increased tourism and the employment of artists.
Each week new murals are being added to the mural trail. Just recently, the town of Elkin placed four historical murals on the Appalachian Mural Trail. One of the murals, called “The Trail Town,” tells how Elkin has become a trail town, where the Yadkin River Blue Trail, the Overmountain Victory Trail, and the NC Mountains-to-Sea Trail converge in its historic downtown. This mural depicts Elkin’s numerous trails and location between two state parks (Stone Mountain and Pilot Mountain) and the border of the mural shows some of the things a visitor would see along Elkin’s town trail, the E&A Rail Trail. Michael Brown was the artist who helped create this vibrant mural telling the story of Elkin’s active outdoor lifestyle and the beauty experienced there every day.
Just recently a new mural has been added to the Appalachian Mural Trail by the Downtown Boone Development Association that was actually painted by a famous WPA artist, Alan Tompkins. His mural, “Daniel Boone on a Hunting Trip,” was sponsored by the US Treasury Department in 1940 and commissioned by the Secretary of Fine Arts. Recently restored by David Goist, the mural is a source of pride for the town as it is the only surviving WPA mural in Northwest North Carolina.
Other news from the Appalachian Mural Trail includes updated information for the Dillsboro Mural Dedication event, a North Carolina Arts Council Anniversary event. “On Hallowed Ground” Dillsboro outdoor historical mural will be dedicated to the Appalachian Mural Trail on June 17 at 10 a.m. to kick off the Dillsboro Front Street Festival. Joyce Lantz of Dogwood Crafters will play the part of Alice Enloe Dills who will tell the story of Dillsboro’s remarkable beginning in 1882 when the first train into the area stopped on the Dills farm. Original music will be played on banjo and sung by Betty Brown, local musician, entitled “The River Tuckasegee.” Also dedicated will be a small mural titled “ColorFest,” painted by local youth this mural is located across the street from the 16 feet long “On Hallowed Ground” mural.
Southern Appalachia’s beautiful murals have not had a platform to be showcased on until now. The Appalachian Mural Trail is fulfilling this need through their interactive website, mural trail.com and sharing with the world this amazing art and exciting heritage.