‘Steeped in History’

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Photos By Robert Noles / OPELIKA OBSERVER

By Hannah Lester
hlester@opelikaobserver.com

Ever taken a photo in front of a pair of wings painted on a wall? Or “held” the umbrella in downtown Opelika? Have you ever traveled along a mural trail, looking for just the right paintings for a photo?

Add Smiths Station to your list of places to visit. 

John Christian has finished Smiths Station’s interactive mural on the side of Rainbow Foods located at 2461 County Road 430, in Smiths Station.

Christian, the founder of the Go Georgia Arts Mural Trail, has been painting murals for years.

When Christian first began painting murals full-time, his goal was to paint 50 murals in five years. And although it may have taken him a little extra time, Christian is well on his way to his goal.

Starting off, Christian painted murals almost for free, as a way of getting his name out there.

“I remember, this is a town called Caves Springs, Georgia, and I did it for practically nothing, I remember thinking when I was painting the mural how I felt mad at myself for not getting enough money for this. But then realized, that mural led to another mural, that led to another mural, that led to another mural, that led to so many others.”

The Coca-Cola bottling plant in Rome, Georgia, called Christian with projects in mind. Soon after, another Coca-Cola bottling plant wanted his work.

Christian likes to focus on small cities for his murals, rather than booming metropolitan areas.

The work for Coca-Cola helped Christian branch out of Georgia and Tennessee, and into Alabama.

Russell County, Lee County’s neighbor, has commissioned Christian for four murals, which caught Smiths Station Mayor Bubba Copeland’s attention.

The city had received a couple of local grants, which they were able to use to fund the creation of a mural, Copeland said.

“[Smiths Station] knew exactly what they wanted and they moved ahead forward,” Christian said.

The Smiths Station mural is located on the side of Rainbow Foods. The mural incorporates elements that allow people to interact with the painting, including a stand in front of the train.

The goal for the mural is also to keep the history of Smiths Station, Copeland said.

“It’s going to be a tribute to the past, as well as the future,” he said. “… People know that we are steeped in history and we’re proud of who we are.”

There are “easter eggs,” all throughout the mural, Copeland said.

“That’s going to be a football, that’s going to be a panther, because there’s panthers, that’s a judge gavel, that’s a moose head, apple,” Christian said. “They all represent something and I’m going to hide them in the tree.”

There are historical figures in the mural too, including Conway Twitty, who attended Smiths Station High School and a local midwife, who delivered many of Smiths Station’s residents, Copeland said.

“I love history,” Copeland said. “I’m a history buff. And so, I just wanted it to attract the younger generation with the easter eggs and interactive part, but I also wanted to be able to stand there and every time you come to it, you see something different.

“… Being part of the Alabama mural trail is a huge deal. There’s people that take road trips just to go on the mural trail and see all the murals.”

The city of Smiths Station held a mural dedication ceremony on April 21 and the mural is now open to the public.

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