Student Artists Bring Wall-to-Wall Culture to Bell County JobSight

Student Artists Bring Wall-to-Wall Culture to Bell County JobSight

[August 2001]

Downtown Pineville now has a full-color, two-story reminder of the good things about life in Bell County, thanks to eight local high school students and the summer component of the Eastern Kentucky C.E.P., Inc. (EKCEP) youth program. The students have painted a mural representing their county’s local culture on the side of the Bell-Whitley Community Action JobSightbuilding.

The mural shows several of the best aspects of life in Bell County in vignettes which blend into each other across an imaginary landscape. The aspects represented include coal mines, railroads, schools, sports, mountain music, churches, logging, golf, farming, marching bands, livestock, and even fishing in a mountain stream.

Response to the mural has been very positive. Local government officials, the chamber of commerce, and other community leaders are very happy with the students’ work and the community pride, interest, and press coverage which it has generated.

EKCEP is being nominated for a Governor’s Award in the Arts, which is presented to an agency supporting the arts through governmental action.

Jeff Whitehead, Deputy Director of EKCEP, developed the idea for the mural from similar civic art projects that he learned about at a National Association of Workforce Boards (NAWB) conference in Washington, DC. He broached the idea to Jamie Corum, a Bell County native who is currently teaching art at Bellarmine College in Louisville, and got an enthusiastic response. He then took the idea to Bell-Whitley CAA director Peggy Capps, who also immediately liked the idea, and the project was soon underway.

Corum, whose previous experience includes a mural at the Louisville Slugger Museum, designed the mural based in part on suggestions

from the high schoolers and the summer youth program staff about which aspects of local culture should be included. Corum sketched the outline of her design onto the wall and the students began their summer jobs as artists. As they brought the design to life, the students had several suggestions for additions and small modifications to make the representation of their community more complete.

Several of the student painters said they were especially proud to be involved in such a visible project which they could enjoy for years to come.

Painting the mural was just one of many summer jobs which the WIA Youth Program made possible for nearly 150 Bell County students this year. Other students worked in more traditional job sites, including city and county government offices, public facilities, schools, health care facilities, and a wide variety of retail businesses.

Overall, EKCEP’s WIA Youth Program provided summer work and learning opportunities for over 2,600 young eastern Kentuckians in 23 counties in 2001.