The above picture is of the mural located at the intersection of West 5th Street and Main Street. It was the idea of the Crossville Arts Council. They invited young, internationally recognized muralist Katie Yamasaki to come to Crossville to meet with us and consider this project. Miss Yamasaki was chosen because of her work with High School students, teaching them the basics of mural painting and giving them the opportunity to contribute to something important within their community.
After meeting people, looking at buildings, listening to stories, she accepted the challenge. Attorney Margaret Jane Powers offered her building which turned out to be perfect. Arrangements were made and Katie arrived in March 2008. This project turned into a real community cooperative deal. The Tennessee Technology Center helped by pressure washing the brick wall and re-pointing the bricks.
Companies donated the scaffolding, people came out to help prime the wall, people within the community offered housing and meals. People dropped by with coffee and donuts, lunch, ideas, and stories. If they had the time, they picked up a brush and painted a few strokes. The weather refused to cooperate, but katie and the students painted in all but the worst weather. The mural was finished on April 26th, a beautiful sunny day.
Katie returned to New York City, but left her mark on our community with her amazing talent, hard work, friendly smile and warm personality. Katie gave us her vision of what this community means to it's people. The following is Katie's vision in her own words: The imagery in this mural depicts how throughout history, the people of Cumberland County have created their own unique culture and society by working the land. When I first began meeting and discussing the history and current culture of this region, many major themes arose. People discussed the hard and often rewarding life of farm labor, stone mining, and logging.
Many people described the value religious life played in their family and in the overall culture of the area. Others discussed heavy involvement, often generation upon generation, in the military. Almost everyone mentioned the natural beauty of Cumberland County, the streams and waterfalls, the forests and the farmland. Native American history, including many in the region whose family is still rich with Cherokee blood lines, was also discussed at length. From the great variety of conversations I've been fortunate to have with many people in the region, combined with extensive research on Cumberland County, I've created an image that shows how all of these historical, natural and contemporary elements are connected, as we are all, connected. The image is framed in each corner by two Cherokee figures, to honor the indigenous roots of this region. Below them, creating a kind of U-shaped frame on the mural is the Crab Orchard stone. In this mural, it works to hold the image together, a metaphor for how, both physically and economically, this stone has helped to build and hold together Cumberland County.
In the bottom left corner, a farmer works in, and grows from a field that is bordered by the Courthouse, Playhouse, Palace Theatre and Depot. The train winds around the depot, representing Crossville as a crossroads for the country, a place where many people have always passed through and often ended up staying, sometimes even on their way to somewhere else. The Playhouse and Palace Theatre were both chosen to honor local culture.
In front of the sun is a scene from the famous historic Homestead project and below that, a scene from various anonymous houses of worship. Below that, two children explore a creek, enjoying the natural beauty of the region. The water throughout the mural symbolizes life and rebirth, as rushing streams and waterfalls each spring renew the plateau's rich landscape.
A large central figure with a soldier in each hand represents a mother whose sons are divided between the Union and Confederacy. She, and the father figure to her left with a letter, perhaps from the government, perhaps for a child overseas, are greater symbols for the complicated feelings of parents everywhere whose sons and daughters go off to war. The flowers on her lap are created with the color combinations of various units that served in the Vietnam War, in an effort to honor their service and provide returning veterans from then and now with the necessary services to best rehabilitate and reintegrate them back into society. Below that to the right is an educational scene with some of Crossville's very old school buildings. In that area and to the right are small scenes that include dedications to Crossville's Chess connection, 4-H Club, golf culture, logging, aviation history and the medical legacy of Dr. May Cravath Wharton. In the tree, you can see two children reading, symbolizing imagination, education, and freedom. A bluegrass player sits in the tree as well, representing the rich musical culture of Crossville. To the right, an old stone quarry surrounds a scene of a working stone facility. Laborers work to gather Crab Orchard Stone. The top right hand corner, as in the top left, shows a Cherokee figure, growing from the earth that was once his native land, considering its present condition.
It is my hope that this mural will be a place of reflection of the past and motivation for the future, a focal point, a conversation starter to remind all who examine it of both the tremendous natural beauty and resource of this region and also the strength of community. There are many communities, many societies built around each of these units of culture - the church, the schools, the military, government, the arts, etc. When all of these communities reconnect with their common roots and shared dreams for the children of this area, great progress can be made.
Thank you for your great love and amazing hospitality during my time in Crossville. Katie Yamasaki, April 26, 2008