TUPELO – In honor of Elvis Presley, downtown Tupelo just got more colorful.
More than 100 people turned out in front of Tupelo Hardware on Thursday to watch as one of 14 guitar sculptures was unveiled.
The 150-pound, 6-foot steel guitar features a pink Cadillac, an image of the Elvis Presley Birthplace and a tribute to Sun Studios in Memphis where Elvis made his first recordings.
The guitar also honors Tupelo Hardware, where Gladys Presley bought her son’s first guitar in 1945.
“It will be something for our visitors, our community and our kids to really enjoy,” said Kit Stafford, an art teacher at Thomas Street Elementary School.
In the fall, Stafford conceived of the idea to pay tribute to Tupelo’s favorite son, who would have turned 75 today. The Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association helped secure a grant from the Elaine Dundy and Roy Turner Endowment Fund for the Arts.
“This project has turned out really swell, hasn’t it?” said Tupelo historian Roy Turner. “I think it will be a great addition to downtown.”
The guitars were sent to schools in the Tupelo Public School District, where art teachers and students decorated them.
They worked with long-lasting paint that’s normally used on water towers. It was challenging material.
“In some places, it took eight coats of paint to get it right,” said Clark Pounds, a 17-year-old senior at Tupelo High School who designed the image on one of the guitars.
THS’s sculpture has a patriotic theme and includes the number 53310761, which fans may recognize as Elvis’ serial number in the army.
“Each one of the guitars has its own interpretation of Tupelo’s music history,” Stafford said. “It was like Christmas, getting to see what people have done.”
Carly Castleberry, 10, of Saltillo, and Bo Shackelford, 6, of Guntown, inspected the guitars while a cold wind blew through downtown.
“I like all the colors,” Carly said.
Bo nodded and agreed: “Colors.”
Stafford said there was a time when she had reservations about letting the guitars get painted.
“They looked so great white,” she said, “but this is much better.”
Digital Impressions designed the monuments, and Outback Industries fashioned them.
“We’ve taken care of delivering them and picking them up,” said Phillip Baulch with Digital Impressions. “We’ve been warehousing them, waiting for today.”
In the coming days, crews will install the rest of the guitars at Elvis sites around downtown. Baulch said a 15th guitar will be auctioned off to raise money for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal