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Two alumnae re-create mural for Midtown Greenway in Gainesville

2020-08-26-Alumnae mural
UNG alumnae Karen Hawk, left, and Fox Gradin banded together to re-create a 1970s mural on a building adjacent to Midtown Greenway in Gainesville. The mural was completed and officially dedicated on July 22.

About 46 years ago, University of North Georgia (UNG) student Karen Hawk answered the call to design a mural for a building in downtown Gainesville, Georgia. She submitted an idea and won.

Fast-forward to 2020 when Hawk, '76, received an unexpected phone call from Frank Norton Jr., chairman of the Vision 2030 Public Art Committee. He asked Hawk to re-create the mural.

"When I heard about the idea, I thought it sounded wonderful," Hawk said.

She agreed and found herself paired with UNG alumna Fox Gradin. They banded together with a committee of people to revive the mural on a building adjacent to Midtown Greenway in Gainesville.

From her home in Salem, South Carolina, Hawk helped verify the appropriate colors and re-creation of the mural.

In Gainesville, Gradin worked to transfer the mural from the photo to a concrete building. She said it involved a lot of math to enlarge and transition the almost square mural onto on a rectangular wall.

Gradin, '00, received the black-and-white photo from Norton, who found it on Facebook. Norton said he had been perusing the internet for historic images of Gainesville when he came across the picture of the mural. He investigated the story behind it, and an idea struck him. The Vision 2030 Public Art Committee could re-create the mural originally on the OddFellows Building on Athens/Sycamore Street.

"The original piece of public art was funded by the Gainesville Arts Council," Norton said. "Now, I think that it's wonderful to replace it with another mural funded by another art organization."

He explained the mural marked an important piece of historic artwork for Gainesville at the time.

"It honored the Black culture. It was painted on a building in the African-American section of Gainesville and on a business owned by African-Americans," Norton said. "It was one of the first pieces of contemporary art."

The mural features swaths of red, yellow, black and white and represents the melting pot of American cultures. Hawk said the colors come from the song "Jesus Loves the Little Children," which was a trite yet simple way to represent our country's diversity.

Once the outline of the design was in place, Hawk traveled to Gainesville in June 2020 to help paint it. There she connected with Gradin and several of the men who helped paint the first mural.

"It was fun talking with everyone and asking their thoughts about it," Hawk said. "Everyone saw something different."

The mural was completed and officially dedicated on July 22.

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