Monumental mural in Morgan



T. Michael Stone


A group of students from the University of Georgia under the direction of an art professor created a colorful mural with a military theme on a wall in Rutledge last week. The mural was commissioned by the Rutledge Garden Club (AKA as the dirt girls).

Professor Norman and students Selena Roth, Gunnar Tarsa, Garrett Ray, Young Lim Lee and Hannah Dugan arrived in Rutledge on May 8 and put the finishing touches on the mural by Saturday.

According to Professor Norman, a genial fellow with an expansive personality, such a mural should have taken nearly two months, but the students leapt into the project, working long days in order to get it done.

“We planned it really well for a month,” Norman said. “We had to hand pick which people we wanted to work with. Everybody had to be able to pull their own weight.”

Students divided up the labor with each one focusing on a specific aspect of the mural.

Roth, for example, has a talent for rendering animals and also specializes in draperies. As a result, she was tabbed to focus on the flowing stars and stripes and the bald eagle that is central to the mural.

Roth is also the project manager. She has completed her studies at the University of Georgia and will be attending Columbia College in Chicago. Her dedication to the project might best be demonstrated by the fact that she got married just before it started and chose to finish it before leaving on any sort of honeymoon.

Hannah Dugan was chosen to draw in the lettering taken from the United States Constitution, while Gunnar Tarsa and Garrett Ray did most of the portraits.

Young Lim Lee also contributed to the portraits. According to Norman, the young Korean artist was intimidated by the scale of the mural, saying it was 10 times as large as anything she had ever done.

But the detailed planning the group did before the project helped and Lee was able to jump right in and do exceptional work like the rest.

Early on, Norman said he was approached by an African-American gentleman who reminded him that African-Americans fought in some of the wars represented in the mural.

Norman said he told the gentleman to be patient. At that stage of the mural’s creation, the faces were still fleshed out with neutral colors.

After the sailor on the mural was finished, Norman, who is African-American himself, said a parade of black people were honking their horns as they passed by.

Norman said locals have been supportive, putting the students up in cabins at Hard Labor Creek State Park and fed them.

“They won’t let us pay for meals,” Norman said. “It’s been one of the most positive experiences I’ve had painting a mural.”

The military theme was chosen to help Rutledge celebrate the upcoming Memorial Day with prominent quote “Never Forgotten” at the mural’s center.

“We wanted, and the ladies wanted us to come up with a concept that would encompass the history of America,” Norman said. “That’s a big task for the hardiest artist.”

The mural incorporates figures that represent the American Revolution, the Civil War, the two World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and America’s desert wars.

Norman said that an African-American

According to Norman, the artists decided not to focus

The mother of one of the members of the Rutledge Garden Club served in an Air Force group called the Wasps during World War II and since the artists had her portrait they decided to paint her into the mural.

Norman said her Lesnikowski burst into tears when she saw her represented in the mural.

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