Mural reflects connections between the past and present.
Francis Bacon said, “The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery.” After speaking with AnnaLysa Kimball, the artist behind the new mural in downtown Woodstock, I think Francis got it wrong. Anyone who lays eyes on the scrapbook of images that cover the Mill Street side of Woodstock Pharmacy’s wall can attest that the wall doesn’t hide anything. It showcases the ideals and themes that make this community so special.
A few years ago, Woodstock officials put out a call for mural artists and Kimball decided to throw her name in the hat. After the selection committee reviewed her portfolio, an interview was conducted, and because of Kimball’s vibrant work and ability to capture moments of life, the committee offered her the job. The wall was a blank canvas (pun intended) and she was able to build a design concept from the ideas of the city representatives and then allow it to evolve into the masterpiece it became.
Kimball began the year-and-a-half-long process of gathering ideas from the community. “We talked about what people loved about the city, and many connected it to our past, where we began … so using images from the past became relevant.” Some had fun requests, like including their pup, but, after a while, patterns began to develop, which allowed her to come up with themes. She wrote the responses of the people she spoke with on sticky notes and created a collage on a wall, alongside images from the past and present.
The artist decided to represent the community in the mural by using everyday citizens to connect images from the past with those of the present, rather than using historical icons. In addition to representing people, she wanted to showcase other elements Woodstock: the outdoors, the inner city, the restaurant vibe, etc. (I don’t need to tell you how cool Woodstock is!)
Below are some of the things that we, as a community, wanted to celebrate about our fair city:
• Love for the outdoors.
• The balance of work and play.
• Healthy living.
• The arts.
Once the design was approved, she began to paint with her parents, who met in art school, in tow. (This family of artists worked tirelessly for an estimated 110 days!) People walking along the sidewalk were used as inspiration. Her friends served as models. Her family happily donated the likenesses of their hands or legs. They even had a few photo shoots downtown when they were looking for something specific to capture.
The community, though, did not just stop by the painting, they wanted to shake hands, share stories, and be a part of the mural. “It became very clear that the mural was still evolving, and, so, the passersby became a part of the mural … just like it was supposed to happen,” Kimball said.
While it was difficult to find volunteers willing to climb the scaffolding in the blistering Georgia sun, some people stepped up to help paint. A few high school girls came by to lend a hand. Another passerby was so moved that she helped paint for a day. Local artist Deborah Tidwell lent her very talented hand one morning.
The City’s Mojo
Kimball and I chatted briefly about the difficulties of the project (each season brought its own weather challenges), but, overall, the process proved to be as spectacular as the mural and our city. “The evolution of the project and the connection of the people to it as they pass by has been the most rewarding. Each person sees something different and takes away something unique to their experiences,” Kimball said about her favorite aspect of the project.
If it wasn’t already obvious, Kimball has an affinity for Woodstock. “My favorite thing about Woodstock is its mojo! This city is so fun, exciting, involved, progressive but humble, creative and inventive, and enthusiastic about its future and potential.”
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I would have to disagree. This mural is worth so much more than words. Kimball managed to capture the heartbeat of our city by simply getting to know the citizens. We are every bit a part of the mural, and should count ourselves lucky that someone as talented and creative as AnnaLysa Kimball could capture what our words alone couldn’t.
– Claire Frost, contributing writer and editor of House of Frost.