Thomas Perry sat on a platform to paint sky-blue trim on a woman sitting at a lunch counter Friday.
His strokes were part of a communitywide effort to create public art and memorialize a proud moment in Chattanooga's history.
Perry is among some 100 people, including 60 students, who have helped to create "We Shall Not Be Moved," a 41-foot-wide, 17-foot-tall mural depicting Chattanooga's 1960 sit-ins. The sit-ins were a nonviolent protest led by Howard High School students. The action led to black people being served in public places.
"Public art that the community makes themselves is all about empowerment and creating a sense of ownership," said Zach Atchley, the project's director. "Having ownership of what a community looks like makes you want to take care of it."
The mural will be showcased on M.L. King Boulevard on the side of Champy's Chicken this summer. It will be a companion mural to a second drawing called "A Dream Built on Faith," depicting the legacy of William Whiteside, founder of Good Neighbors Inc. That mural, also expected to be completed this summer, will be on the east wall of Good Neighbors Inc. at 737 E. 10th St.
"We Shall Not Be Moved" may be up in time for the Bessie Smith Strut, said Frances McDonald, founder and executive director of Mark Making, the nonprofit organization heading the public art project funded by the Tennessee Art Commission.
McDonald said she named the foundation Mark Making to represent everyone who makes their mark by participating in public art projects.
Howard School students started the design in January after studying the work of black artist Jacob Lawrence for inspiration. They looked at photos of the sit-ins. And Booker T. Scruggs, a former Howard student who participated in the 1960 sit-ins, talked to students about his experience. Then students drew the lunch counter sit-in scene on paper.
McDonald hired local artists Amanda Brazier, Rondell Crier and Judy Mogul to help put the students' papers together to make the mural.
The goal is to have communitywide participation, she said.
Marty Brown knelt in a corner to paint her portion of the mural. She said she was so excited about participating that she brought her 8-year-old grandson Luke Brown to paint with her.
Catherine Norrell stood in the studio doorway asking to help while the Browns and about four other people painted. Norrell said she drove up to the North Chattanooga art studio after seeing a Facebook request for volunteers to help paint.
"As time goes by I think the depth of a historical thing that happens tends to fade away and people forget its true importance, especially if the people pass away," Norrell said about the 1960 sit-ins and those who took part in them. "They are the storytellers of the history in our community and should never be forgotten."
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman @timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.
Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...