Artful alley

Graeson Bittle, 2020 Oneonta graduate, painted “Making Waves” and is writing a paper about the experience for one of her Wallace State classes.

Graeson Bittle, 2020 Oneonta graduate, painted “Making Waves” and is writing a paper about the experience for one of her Wallace State classes.

There is a little more color in downtown Oneonta. In the alley that splits the 200 block next to Miller’s Soda Shoppe, you can leisurely stroll past neon lights, bubbles, sheep, waves, weeping willows, and Old Glory. How you ask? Well thanks to the Oneonta Business Association, you can take a well-lit journey through opulent murals created by local artists.

Each mural has a meaning, message, and ties to Oneonta depicting what makes the town so special to each of the artists.Since the Oneonta Business Association officially unveiled the Art Walk a few weeks ago, a steady stream of people have come to check out the murals.

The alley is 200 feet long proving ample space to take your time, snap some photos, reflect on the carefully-scrolled scripture, and reminisce on Oneonta’s history. Whether you live here or are just passing through, each person can take something with them to remember the quaintness and charm of downtown.

The idea for the Art Walk was spurred by a desire to draw more people to Oneonta. Once here, they can also enjoy the unique downtown atmosphere, shop at the local boutiques, and eat at the various restaurants.Bill Hendrickson was at the helm of the project.

“Tourism and murals go hand-in-hand,” he said. “Americans for the Arts found that every dollar invested in a non-profit art project [such as murals] generates $6 in taxes. Once locals and tourists frequent a mural and spend their money in the area, the building on which the mural is painted becomes more desirable, ultimately increasing property values.

“In addition, murals offer accessibility to art and creative expression with no cost and no class-based barriers associated with museums and galleries. The

Art Walk creates a tangible sense of place and destination, resulting in increased foot traffic while adding color, vibrancy, and character.”

The murals will also be listed on the Alabama Mural Trail. In the future, the OBA hopes to create a plaza behind Miller’s with additional sail shades, picnic tables, and planters.

Several of the local artists who participated in the mural were on hand for the unveiling and were excited to talk about their projects. Jess Burnett, who painted “Bent, Not Broken,” explained how delighted she was to participate. “It means a lot [to have my art included],” she said. “I really appreciate the opportunity to be here and have my art forever here in Oneonta.”

Redonia Davis spoke of her piece, “Willow,” and excitedly shared that she included hidden critters in her mural. “When the piece was finished, I thought, you know what? I bet kids would get a kick out of trying to find something!” So, she added ladybugs, ants, four-leaf clovers, bumble bees, mice, a cat, a snail, and butterflies.

One of the most impressive parts of the mural project was the inclusion of young artists. Graeson Bittle, a 2020 OHS graduate and current Wallace State student, had her piece, “Making Waves,” accepted. “It’s very special,” she said. “When my idea got accepted, I was really excited. I’m actually writing a paper about it for my college class!”

Another young artist on the roster is Emma Knowles, whose whimsical bubble mural, “Wherever the Wind Blows,” is a perfect photo-op for visitors to post on their Instagram wall.

Outside of local talent, the project also attracted artists from other towns. M. Brandon Moore, an artist from Hunstville, painted the large American Flag on the side of the Neal building (also visible from Ala 75 as you drive into town). He is a police officer and artist who contacted the OBA when he heard about the project.

“When I caught wind of what they were doing down here,” he said, “I wanted to be a part of it. I’m from a small town called Wetumpka and it has a lot of the same feel as Oneonta. It means a lot to me to have come from a small town and I wanted to help in the effort to bring business back, so they gave me the opportunity. I am very grateful.”

The OBA isn’t stopping with the Art Walk. Phase II of the mural project is in planning stages and new concepts have been submitted. This phase will extend to the 300 Block and will adorn local businesses who have agreed to provide funds for paint and other expenses.

Oneonta may be small, and a little hard to pronounce, but it’s easy to agree that its beauty and spirit is unmatched — which makes it all the more a beautiful place to live.

Artists and works

• Hope Beason – “Water’s Edge”

• Graeson Bittle – “Making Waves”

• Jess Burnett – “Bent, Not Broken”

• Janice Cook – “O NE ON TA” (spacing intentional)

• Christian Corvin – “Kindness Matters”

• Redonia Davis – “Willow Tree Wonders”

• Matthew Green – “All Roads Lead to Home”

• Kenleigh Key – “Grow Through Everything You Go Through”

• Emma Knowles – “Wherever the Wind Blows” and “Reflect the Sun”

• Laurie Knowles – “Baa…rb” (Psalm 100:3)

• M. Brandon Moore – “Gallantly Streaming”

• Tara Murphree – “Stars Shine on Little Joe’s”

• Morgan Plyler – “Sweet Shoppe”

• Sam Sanfilippo – “Home… If Only in My Mind”

• Mandy Smith – “Love Where You Live”