Tupelo students will paint guitars for the King

TUPELO – Students in Tupelo public schools will play a large and colorful role in Elvis’ 75th birthday celebration in January.
With each school in the district represented, the students will paint 6-foot-tall steel guitars that will be on permanent display in downtown Tupelo. Digital Impressions constructed 15 of the sculptures – one for each school, two for Tupelo High School and one that will be auctioned off for charity. They will be unveiled at the celebration for what would have been Elvis’ 75th birthday during the week of Jan. 8.
The exact locations of the guitars have not yet been mapped.
“I love that 20 or 30 years from now, the students are going to be able say they were part of Tupelo history,” said Kit Stafford, an art teacher at Thomas Street Elementary School who envisioned the painted guitars.
The guitars were designed by Stafford’s husband. Russell Stafford, art director at Digital Impressions. He crafted them to resemble Elvis’s first guitar, which was bought from Tupelo Hardware.
Stafford said the design had to be precise or hard-core Elvis fans would notice.
Each guitar will also sit on a base shaped like the Tupelo TVA arrow sign at Crosstown.
The guitars are only one part of the “Rockin’ Tupelo” curriculum that the schools will use to learn more about Elvis and Mississippi’s other legendary musicians. The curriculum will incorporate music, dance, movement, drama and visual art.
For instance, students will create blues-, rock-and-roll- and jazz-inspired art that will be displayed around town. They will listen and dance to the music made by Mississippians.
The Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association sought funding for the project from the Elaine Dundy and Roy Turner Endowment for the Arts, which gave $1,000 to each school.
“So many people who live here aren’t as aware of Elvis as people were 20 years ago and aren’t aware of the impact he’s had on the city,” Turner said. “We need to bring a new generation on board to carry the torch.”

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or at chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal