New mural to tell ‘Story of the shirt’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 6, 2013

Work will soon get under way on Andalusia’s sixth mural, and by January, visitors will be able to listen to a narrative about each mural with a simple cell phone call.

Murals committee chairwoman Pat Palmore shared that news with the Andalusia City Council Tuesday night, which voted to fund the prep work for the newest mural.

Palmore said the next mural will be located adjacent to the recently restored Alatex building, which is now home to the Chamber of Commerce and serves as a welcome center. Many photographs from the Alatex era are displayed there.

An artist's rendition of the background for a new mural, which will include 12 panels telling the story of the shirt.

An artist’s rendition of the background for a new mural, which will include 12 panels telling the story of the shirt.

“There is a wall there built for this purpose that also serves as a retaining wall,” she said. “The surface has to be sealed so that no water, moisture, or anything can get through to the mural.

“The artist doesn’t think it would be a problem, but there is a possibility there could be some cracks in the wall that would allow seepage at some point,” she said.

The mural artist, Wes Hardin, has designed a background for the mural to be painted on the retaining wall. The new mural will actually be a series of panels attached to the wall, but not positioned flat against it.

“One advantage is that if we don’t have the money raised, we can just do the first three panels until we raise the rest of the money,” she said.

The murals will tell the story of a shirt, Palmore said.

“It touches on steps in the manufacturing of a shirt, and what’s involved,” she said. “But it also shows how Covington County was involved in so many different areas.”

The panels will depict cotton being grown; the ginning process; producing fabric in a mill; following the steps in the sewing process from the cutting to the finished shirt, she said.

While Alatex didn’t use locally-grown cotton and locally-made fabric as it became one of the largest producers of men’s dress shirts, those processes were done here by other companies.

“We always have a narrative, and in our narrative, we will tell how other things were manufactured in Andalusia,” Palmore said.

The council approved a $7,300 expenditure to prepare the retaining wall. Palmore said the process is expected to take some time, and the committee is anxious to get the work under way. As the committee collects contributions for the mural, those funds will be applied toward the city’s expenditure.

Meanwhile, it is hoped the new mural will be in place next January, when Andalusia hosts a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit, The Way We Worked.

The Alabama Humanities Foundation, a co-sponsor, will work with the local community to localize the Worked story, and to record oral histories about work in Covington County.

“We are excited about the Smithsonian exhibit being here in January, 2014,” Palmore said. “They will do an audio for our murals that will be free to us. In the future, when you come up to a mural, you can dial a number on your cell phone and hear a narrative.”

Mayor Earl Johnson encouraged the council to move the project forward so that it can be done in January.

“We want to take advantage of publicity on the Smithsonian and visitors we hope they’ll have,” he said.