Young artists add history to Oren Dunn museum

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A new monument to Lee County serves double duty as a monument to the talents of four high school students.
On Thursday, the Oren Dunn City Museum unveiled an 8-feet-by-16-feet mural created as part of a Tupelo High School senior project.
Brigid McCool, Casey Marshall and Paige Knapp, all 18, and 17-year-old Feleysa Nguyen combined their time and talents to paint the mural, which is a replica of a mural at the Lee County Library.
Previously, the quartet had worked on a mural next to the Tupelo Farmer’s Market on South Spring Street.
“The museum came to us to work on this one,” Nguyen said.
The girls decided to make it their senior project. Work began in October and lasted until January.
Some sacrifice was involved, the artists said.
“I’ve lost fingernails because paint got on them, and all my jackets, and a couple of shorts,” McCool said.
“It was winter, so you had to bundle up,” Marshall said.
“Our fingers were bleeding,” Knapp said, then added, “Just kidding.”
The mural was painted on four panels in a workshop at Knapp’s house. They used latex porch paint and expect it to last.
“I like the idea of bringing my children and grandchildren,” Marshall said.
Portions of the mural celebrate the region’s contributions during both world wars. The tornado of 1936 is depicted, as is the 1736 Battle of Ackia and General Nathan Bedford Forrest at Brice’s Crossroads in 1864.
In addition, there are Tupelo gum trees and a mockingbird, among about 12 other slices of Lee County history.
It is a copy of the library’s mural, but it wasn’t intended to be an exact copy.
“We wanted to put our own …,” Nguyen said.
“Spin on it,” McCool finished.
“Yeah,” Nguyen said.
Rae Mathis, the museum’s operations manager, first suggested the idea for a mural, and Janice Anthony, museum director, chose to model it after the one at the library.
Jerry Duckett, facilities manager, was tasked with installing the four painted panels on a brick wall on the south side of the building.
“I think it brings a little pizzazz to the museum,” Marshall said. “People who come out here will see a big pop of color.”
Mayor Jack Reed Jr. attended Thursday’s event and complimented the way the project combined history and art at the museum.
“I’m proud of you girls for your ability to do it,” he said, “and your interest to do it.”
scott.morris@journalinc.com