'Mountain Mural Fest' brings life to downtown Cumberland

Published: Aug. 3, 2018 at 10:22 PM EDT
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Bringing life back to downtowns that have lost jobs and businesses is a tall task. Not to be daunted, several groups are coming together to organize projects in Cumberland and Harlan; projects that revitalize the areas and offer workforce training at the same time.

Mountain Mural Fest is just one part of a larger project aiming to build the downtowns of Cumberland and Harlan into places where people want to spend their time and money.

"If we want business to come back or business to stay, we're going to need to beautify and renovate our downtown buildings", said Robert Gipe, who is helping organize the projects. "One of the issues is when you start to do renovation or even to do public art, a lot of times local people aren't trained to do the work."

Gipe brought in professional mural artists from Minnesota. He believes this is the perfect way to teach people in the region while they gain experience.

"How do we make it so you have to be part of it? You have to learn it and you have to walk away with a skill set because we need you to make this project", said Greta McLain from GoodSpace Murals. "But also because we really want you to get it and learn how to do it. And we do a lot of learning by doing."

One volunteer recently moved to Corbin. She hopes to bring what she learns this week back home.

"I've gone a lot of different ways in art in my life", said Beth Jones, a volunteer artist from Corbin. "This is something I've always been very interested in. I'm hoping this is the first stepping stone to a lot more."

Another volunteer is working on a mural in Jenkins. She says working on this project in Cumberland will help her also add beauty to her project in Letcher County.

"I've learned a lot of techniques. I was just in a session with tips for how to price, how to select paint, just different things that help", said Pam Meade, who travelled from West Liberty to volunteer. "This is important. This will help me finish that Mural in Jenkins I hope."

The plan now is to use volunteers who gain experience from this project on a mural in downtown Harlan next. Organizers already have a location picked out next to the old Belk building.

Gipe says the roofing project at the old Belk building in downtown Harlan will begin soon. He says it should begin by October at the latest.

The project will teach local people construction skills while they work on the building. Even though the program will not grant college credit, Gipe says people who enter the program will be paid.

The Mountain Mural Fest will continue through this weekend. Organizers say anyone can come out and volunteer. The mural is being painted on the side of Buff's Bows & Gifts on Main Street.