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The Power of Public Art in Placemaking: The Alabama Mural Trail

October 25, 2020

Alabama is getting more colorful these days, thanks to efforts to create murals that enliven communities and contribute to their singular identity. The University of Alabama Center for Economic Development (UACED) is on a mission to harness the ability of murals to attract more visitors to Alabama towns.

“Our goal is to have at least one mural in all 67 counties in the state,” says UACED’s Tourism & Community Development Director Candace Johnson-Beers. So far, UACED has received 664 mural submissions that are being vetted as part of the Alabama Mural Trail.

The murals will be curated using the Public Art Archive database to highlight local art, culture and visual storytelling throughout Alabama. Because new murals are being created every month, a digital presence is an effective way to convey the latest information.

“It is a work in progress, but theoretically people will look at the mural listings online on the Public Art Archive and travel to that mural, snap a photo in front of it with their phone and post to social media, Instagram most likely, using -#SweetHomeMurals to check off that county and “stamp” their passport,” Johnson-Beers explains.

“We will most likely have an image to go along with this that they can screen shot and save on their device and fill in each county as they travel to it with their photos, but this is just creative thinking at this point.  We are deep into vetting submissions for the Public Art Archive, making sure we have all the correct and needed information to direct people to the murals.”

A mural is an achievable type of public art that can involve the entire community. Murals are indeed popular. UACED would often learn about new murals being created throughout Alabama, as well as mural art walks and public art workshops. So, the idea to create a statewide mural trail was a natural next step to present a community in a new way.

UACED’s first step was to inventory and curate all of the existing murals in the state and gather information about the muralists who created them, who were then asked if they’d like to create more.  The final step will be to determine where the murals will be placed. Counties without murals will receive them first.

Enjoying works of art outdoors makes even more sense during these Covid-19 pandemic times. Murals as a form of placemaking can be “exhibited” on a variety of outdoor spaces – from water towers and fire hydrant to bridges, exposed piping and crosswalks. A safer way to connect with art than inside a museum and a way to express the distinctive personality of a town.

Creative placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces that capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential. With the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being.

Murals also attract people to areas within a community that are off the beaten path. Using public art to add pride of place to a community increases foot traffic, economic impact and provides a level of safety in an otherwise forgotten area of a community.  For more information on the Alabama Mural Trail, visit: www.uaced.ua.edu/mural


Butterflies adorn the side of a building at 501 Fairhope Ave. in Fairhope. The mural is part of the new Alabama Mural Trail initiated by the University of Alabama’s Center for Economic Development.

Almost every drugstore had a soda fountain by the early 1920s. This mural depicts the soda fountain that was in Riley’s Drugstore at Court Square and Coffee Street in Andalusia.

This mural located at 212 First Avenue E. in Oneonta, the seat of Blount County, has a bit of fun with its name by declaring, “Oneonta, a Great Place, No Matter How You Pronounce It!”

A mural that celebrates Alabama’s peanut industry can be seen at 251 Main St. in Dothan. The goal of the Alabama Mural Trail is to have at least one mural in all 67 Alabama counties.
  • Article Written By Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development.