VALDOSTA, Georgia — Taylor Shaw, a faculty member in Valdosta State University’s Department of Art & Design, recently collaborated with the Tifton-Tift County Tourism Association to create a mural that celebrates Georgia’s Friendly City.
The mural has a retro vibe and features several iconic Tifton landmarks, including the Town Terrace Motel, Fulwood Park, Coca-Cola, and Tift Theatre. It lives on the railroad side of Fifth Street Interiors at 122 East 5th Street, a well-traveled part of the city. Tifton Mayor Julie Smith described the mural as a symbol of the city’s culture and history.
Shaw spent about three months designing the mural, a process that included revisions and conversations with Tifton leaders to find the proper imagery to represent the community. Painting the mural took about a week to complete. He was grateful for the onsite assistance he received from his partner, Kaleena Stasiak, another VSU Department of Art & Design faculty member. He said painting outdoors in the South Georgia sun “can be long and brutal” and help is always appreciated.
VSU: How did you develop the design for this project?
SHAW: Most of my work and research revolves around nostalgia and tourism. I have a penchant for retro fonts and designs mixed with contemporary style and colors. I started this design by researching midcentury modern fonts. Tifton just gave off a vibe that reminded me of that era of design. I always like to visit a mural location and talk to the building owners to gather visual clues before designing. Sometimes you just pick up certain design frequencies that resonate with a site.
When seeking out local input, I started by asking the board I was working with about the history of Tifton. That gave me an entry point. I then reached out to many local business owners and representatives from different parts of the community. Throughout my research I found out that the Coca-Cola logo we see today was designed in Tifton, the largest Hispanic festival in South Georgia takes place there, and it’s a large hub of agriculture. I also learned a lot about Doc Melton, who paved the way for black politicians, and his wife, Ella, who was also instrumental in the Civil Rights movement to get the black community more representation in the political and business landscape. Doc and Ella’s daughter actually came by as I was painting and was so excited to see a portrait of her dad in the mural. She took a picture with me and was at the unveiling ceremony to give a speech.
VSU: How do you hope this mural inspires the people who visit and the people who live in Tifton?
SHAW: My hope is that this represents as many communities and cultures in Tifton as possible. If people see themselves in public art, there is no better feeling. The validation of being permanently represented in a huge work of public art is what I hope to achieve with this piece. Tifton is a community with more than just peanuts and pecans. It is full of vibrant people doing wonderful things to connect and encourage each other.
VSU: You have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from Mississippi State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Sculpture from the University of Georgia. As a studio artist, do you specialize in these two forms of art?
SHAW: As a studio artist I oscillate between practices, but I also have a lot of other creative endeavors. I love airbrushing, designing shirts and logos, and I’m a former chef. I was recently on ESPN in Athens for the chef segment of College Gameday. They all feed each other creatively. It also depends on space and time. Right now, I’m mostly concentrating on murals and design work but still teach and dabble in sculpture. I think of myself as an artist rather than a specialist. Anything creative that I can get my hands on I will try.
The 2022-2023 academic year marks Shaw’s third at VSU. He teaches two-dimensional design, three-dimensional design, stimulating creative behavior, senior presentation, and senior exhibition courses.
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