The Public Art of the Magnolia State
The art and culture of Mississippi is most often associated with the legacy of music and the culinary traditions of the region, but there is more to Mississippi’s art scene than our outstanding cuisine and sultry blues. Travelers in Mississippi’s communities can sample the character of a community through murals that offer a glimpse into the past, hope for the future or simply a friendly “Welcome.”
In the capital city of Jackson, there is a vibrant community of public art that welcomes all who wander to the City with Soul. This mural, located in the heart of downtown Jackson at the corner of Pearl and State streets, is one of the first that visitors will see coming into the city off I-55.
Further into town, within the Farish Street Historic District, is a memorial to Richard Wright that features a haiku penned by Wright, as well as a remarkable likeness of the Mississippi author. The mural is found just off High Street in downtown Jackson on the side of the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center, which was formerly the Smith Robertson School, which Wright attended.
The Mississippi Delta Region is a fertile source of Mississippi art. Travelers to the smaller communities in this largely agricultural region are greeted with remarkable art in unexpected locations. Visitors to the City of Belzoni can enjoy “Catfish on Parade,” a series of 42 decorated, fiberglass catfish located in front of local businesses.
Depictions include a tribute to Bluesman Sonny Boy Williamson. In Tutwiler, located along Railroad Blues Park, are murals that honor the legacy of the music that got its start in the region. Included among the rails and old bricks are depictions of the land itself, including Tutwiler’s railroad station, where the “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy wrote that he first heard the blues in 1895.
In Hattiesburg, much of the public art is found along Hardy Street, from downtown to the campus of The University of Southern Mississippi. Utility boxes and walls have been decorated all over Hattiesburg, with locations marked on the city’s Public Art Trail map. Some murals represent the city’s academic legacy.
“Suffarage” painted by Heidi Pitre. Created to honor Hattiesburg women who served in public office.
The Suffrage Mural in downtown Hattiesburg, near the intersection of Hardy and McLeod streets, is a reference to the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment that guarantees women’s right to vote. The art includes the names of women who served in public office in the Greater Hattiesburg area.
Located near the historic Oxford Square, “Greetings from Oxford,” invokes the literary and historic legacy of the city, along with some of Oxford’s most recognizable landmarks. The mural is a celebration of the community that encourages visitors to explore both the past and the contemporary Oxford experience.
Starkville visitors are treated to a mural evoking the city’s colorful nickname, “Starkvegas.” The welcoming sign includes some of the community’s most recognizable landmarks and features Bully, the mascot of Mississippi State University, which is located in Starkville. Travelers can find this wonderful mural just after the intersection of Russell and Mill streets.
Also in Starkville, at the intersection of University Drive and Maxwell Street, is a colorful and unmistakable mural painted directly onto the street. The design, a Choctaw symbol for happiness, sits within the heart of Starkville’s Cotton District. The shopping and residential area sits in what once was the location of a cotton mill and workers’ community.
In Vicksburg, visitors can experience 32 life-like pictorial murals painted along the floodwall on Levee Street. These murals depict various periods of history in the city and were painted by Robert Dafford beginning in 2002. The first mural to painted on the wall is a more abstract piece by Vicksburg artist Martha Ferris (left image) in 2001, depicting three vital arteries feeding Vicksburg’s diversity: the river, the railroad, and the highway.