Nine diverse artists to paint new murals near the Big Nine in Chattanooga, TN

This mural by artist Kevin Bate helps memorialize The Big Nine, which was what the MLK area used to be called in the days when Bessie Smith performed here. | NOOGAtoday

Throughout Chattanooga, heartbeats of history ring along Martin Luther King Boulevard, and now a mural project is going to put a new spotlight on the former 9th Street’s legacy. 

Who: EPB, partner orgs + nine local artists
What: “The Soul of MLK – How artists visualize the heart and soul of MLK in arts, music and culture”
When: Work begins in the spring
Where: EPB substation fence at 10th and Foster streets (which is just off MLK Boulevard)
Why: To highlight the history, heritage and significance of downtown’s Martin Luther King Boulevard area 

This shows where the murals will go. | EPB

The artists + project names 

Jaclyn Anderson – Barbershop Vignette
Rondell Crier – Good Fish
Josiah Golson – Head in the Clouds of History
Keelah Jackson-Harris – Dr. King’s 9th Street Reverie
Julius Hubbard – Dare to Dream
Harlan Lovestone – A Dream Rises
Madison Myers – Interracial Couple Dancing
Lauren O’Neill – The Quilt
Rachel Veal – Street Music

New voices 

  • 100% of the selected submissions were from minority or women artists.
  • For some artists, this will be their first mural work

“In alignment with the historical significance of the MLK district, we were honored to be part of a process that blindly selected such diverse artists. The result is a body of work that lifts local voices and creates a tapestry reflecting the culture, traditions, and social justice heritage of the area.” Vickye Bone, Vice President of Programs with the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, which is a partner on this project 

MLK Boulevard already has murals that beautify buildings throughout the street. | NOOGAtoday

Some history 

  1. MLK Boulevard used to be called 9th Street
  2. During the segregation era, the area was home to many Black-owned shops, offices, and entertainment venues.
  3. But the end of segregation and changing traffic patterns, among other factors, eventually altered the once bustling boulevard and it fell largely into disrepair for years.
  4. It wasn’t until a couple of years after The Great Recession, and after the rebirth of areas such as Chattanooga’s Southside, that developers and business owners started to come to MLK. 
  5. Since about 2012, the area has seen new investment. 
  6. The new murals will join a handful of other unique creations that already beautify  buildings on MLK. 

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