Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

September 15, 2013

Work on new floodwall murals to start

Two paintings will depict region’s black heritage

Carrie Stambaugh
The Independent

ASHLAND — A long-awaited project to add two floodwall murals documenting and preserving Ashland’s rich multicultural heritage will begin next month.

The United Communities to Advance our Neighborhoods or UCAN initiative is funding the project, which seeks to preserve and celebrate Ashland’s rich black history. The murals will be painted by local artist Jeremy Johnson on the floodwall behind the city’s Transportation Center.

The first mural to be painted will feature six historic black churches in the area. The churches include New Hope Baptist Church, Johnson Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Christ Temple Church, St. James, an African Methodist Episcopal church in Greenup County and an unnamed church in Russell.  

 A second mural will depict the 1947 class of Booker T. Washington School, an all-black school that existed before integration, along with other alumni and teachers. The basketball team and the marching band will also be depicted.

UCAN has been raising funds for the murals — expected to cost about $20,000 to install — for the last several years. “It has been a very long journey,” said Brenda Martin, UCAN’s founder and president. She said additional funds are still needed to fully fund both murals, but organizers wanted to get started with the first painting.

“We have faith that as people see them growing, they will want to support and be a part of this multicultural project,” said Martin, “We are glad to see it happen and I believe the excitement will be shared with the area and they will come forth with the support.” 

“Jerry is a wonderful artist and I know he is going to bring a lot of vitality and color and artistic creativity to the walls and that area that has become a good attraction and a source of pride for the community,” said Martin.

City of Ashland workers will prepare the wall for painting over the next few weeks, and Johnson is expected to begin his work Oct. 1, according to Martin. She hopes the first mural, depicting the churches, will be completed before winter.

That mural will be dedicated to the late Suffragan Bishop Elzy Thomas, who died earlier this year. Thomas, who led Christ Temple Church for more than half a century, was a vocal supporter of the project as well as an outspoken community advocate. He was also a 1950 graduate of the Booker T. Washington School.

Those who would like to donate to the project can do so through UCAN Inc., a nonprofit 501(c)(3). Donations are tax deductible. Checks can be mailed to UCAN at P.O. Box 104 Russell, KY 41169-0104. Those who send checks should note the donation is for the mural project. For more information, email Brenda Martin at ucanhelp@windstream.net.

Silver and Gold Donors, those who give at the $500 and above level, are eligible to have their name and/or photo painted on the wall.