Meg Mitchell creates a drawing with sidewalk chalk to illustrate different parts of Fort Oglethorpe during a Thriving Communities Initiative interactive art walk pop-up at Gilbert-Stephenson Park in March. The park will soon see art displayed more permanently thanks to a grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation.

Following the completion of its Thriving Communities training, Fort Oglethorpe has received a $20,000 grant from the Lyndhurst Foundation that will bring the city's plans for an "Interactive Art Walk" to life beginning next summer.

The grant comes after the city was chosen by Thrive Regional Partnership early this year to receive 10 months of strategic assistance from local design professionals and other community members in order to make the most of the area's economic opportunities.

The first project planned for the Interactive Art Walk is a historical mural at Gilbert-Stephenson Park. The debut attraction will be painted on the back wall of the standalone restroom facility which faces the park's parking lot, pool and tennis court.

"Right now, it's painted brown, so it doesn't quite leap out at you. But once it's got that beautiful mural on it, it's going to be 'Whoa!'" said Chris McKeever, Thriving Communities team member and director of the 6th Calvary Museum.

Standing 11 feet tall and 27 feet wide, the mural will depict scenes from the history of Fort Oglethorpe, starting in 1902, when the Army post was first established.

The mural will be created by Alabama artist Wes Hardin, whose murals can be found on walls all across the Southeast. Hardin will meet with McKeever and other historians in the local community, such as Ringgold's Bill Clark, to conduct background research that will inform his design.

Once the conception is approved by the Thriving Communities team, work can begin, with the expected completion date falling in June or July 2019, McKeever said.

Hardin's quote for the project is approximately $8,000, with some minor expenses expected to be added should adverse weather prolong the painting process.

While the mural will be a permanent display, other projects planned for the art walk are expected to change every year.

One such display is the art wall planned for the city-owned privacy fence at the park. By working with teachers to outline project parameters, the Thriving Communities team will solicit art from local high school students. The winning pieces will be showcased along the fence for six to nine months, then be swapped out with art from the next batch of selected students.

"That way we have new artists that we can bring in, we have new people's perspective to give us their take on what they feel the history of our area is, and it gives us the opportunity to change it out and make it fresh again," said McKeever.

The team plans to install the rotating art wall after the history wall mural is unveiled, though no specific date or cost estimates have been determined.

Other projects slated to be implemented after the mural's completion include a history hopscotch game, featuring important dates and fun facts about the area; painted park benches, offering students in local shop classes a chance to restore the existing benches; and history display boards along local walking trails.

Together, the five projects represent phase one of the envisioned Interactive Art Walk initiative. McKeever said the committee will need to continue fundraising efforts as projects for future phases take shape.

The team has already received the city council's OK to apply for a $5,000 Georgia Tourism Product Development grant. In May, the county and its municipalities invited an assessment of their amenities by a development team from the state, making them eligible to apply for the grant, and murals were included in that group's suggestions for improvement.

The committee will find out whether they have been awarded the grant in January, and the required 50 percent match of $5,000 would be provided by the 6th Cavalry Museum.

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