strengthening their community through working together to create
something to be proud of.
One of the murals now featured on the Appalachian Mural Trail was the brainstorm of Holly Thomas who wished to create a large mural to feature the history of Marion and Smyth County Virginia. Holly planned it to be a community project to restore pride and hope in an area hit hard by recession. After much research she created the first rendering of the mural in the fall of 2009. She finished the final drawing in the spring of 2010.
"We wanted more than one artist to paint this mural to create community pride and ownership of the project. It was never about me as an artist, or what my vision was, but about creating a touchstone for learning and self-esteem for Smyth County and Marion," says Holly.
Approximately 25 different volunteers took turns working on the project: school children, young Job Corp volunteers and their oldest participant, Evelyn Lawrence. In her 90s, Lawrence came and sat in a chair and painted the feathers on the hat belonging to her mother, Susie Madison Thompson, a pioneering educator in Smyth County.
The community mural is accompanied by a fence and benches, so people can sit and look at the mural. The fence project was a Boy Scout eagle badge project for Ferris Ellis. The front of the fence is painted as a tribute to Smyth County children and the county's heritage, and the back is painted as a tribute to Smyth County farmers. All who worked on the mural project enjoyed the challenge and working together with others in the community. Those who were retired or unemployed found purpose during those days and hope that things would improve.