HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – It’s called public art. And there’s plenty to explore right here in north Alabama. You could say the writings on the wall. Or in this case, art, for the public to enjoy. “Everyone wants to go take a selfie out in front of the mural or the wings or the big sign that says Welcome to Huntsville,” Erin Hackenmueller explained.
From the Shoals to Sand Mountain, public art is popping up in communities across north Alabama. The colorful creations are a way to attract attention and create excitement in our cities and towns. They’re also becoming a recruiting tool for tourism across the state. Erin Hackenmueller added, “We really want to encourage people to go somewhere new and explore somewhere they might not have before.”
Erin is a research associate at the University of Alabama Center for Economic Development. She’s part of a team that’s created the Alabama Mural Trail. “We really hope that both Alabama locals and people from all over the U.S. will find this and encourage people to visit places that they might not normally go to,” Erin told me.
North Alabama is well represented on the Mural Trail. “Right now, on the website, you can find all of the counties in north Alabama. And then also Jefferson County was just launched,” she said. Erin added, “We are slowly working our way and adding murals to the site and central Alabama will be coming soon.”
Photographer John Dersham hit the road and captured some of the murals for the Alabama Mountain Lakes Tourist Association. Alabama has 67 counties. Nine of them don’t have murals listed on the trail yet. But the group is looking. “We want the murals to be beautiful,” Erin said, “We don’t want something that’s faded and overgrown and not really taken care of.”
There are guidelines to make the cut. “You want the mural to be publicly accessible 24/7. We want the murals to be kind of at human height so we don’t want rooftop murals so someone could stand in front of it and take a picture,” Erin said.
I took a picture of a mural on the side of a building in Florala long before I even knew about the Alabama Mural Trail. If you see one while you’re on the road, the folks in Tuscaloosa want to hear from you. “If anyone is traveling along in Alabama and they see a mural, they can absolutely post it on social media,” Erin said with a smile.
If you do, make sure you tag the Alabama Mural Trail with @alabamatourist and #sweethomemurals. “If people do that, they tag us and they use the hashtag, we’d love to repost it on our social media accounts,” Erin added.