A local artist is breathing new life into a downtown Halifax alleyway.
Obie Coleman started work last week on a mural highlighting all that Halifax County has to offer on one of the connecting alleyway walls of Hite Insurance off South Main Street. The mural is part of an “Urban Thinkscape” project designed to transform the previous vacant alleyway into a space the community and visitors alike can enjoy.
The vibrant mural incorporates historical landmarks of Halifax County, such as Berry Hill Plantation and the Halifax County Courthouse, with other Halifax County cultural landmarks and attractions such as the Halifax County Fairgrounds, river recreation on the Staunton River, The Prizery, South Boston Speedway featuring Ward Burton’s racecar, No. 22, and an agricultural scene.
The map is also a “key” to Halifax County, with the landmarks displayed in their appropriate location on the map.
“It’s going to be a guide to Halifax County. People will know where to stop relative to where something is located on the map,” Coleman explained.
As the South Boston artist painted in the details on the children portrayed at the Halifax County Fairgrounds in his artwork Friday afternoon, he explained why incorporating children in the public mural was important to him.
“I wanted to create a festive scene that would attract kids to want to be out here and have more of a family environment,” Coleman said. “People always complain there is nothing to do in Halifax County. Maybe with a change of scenery and getting people outside, it might attract more things to do here.”
A native of Halifax County, Coleman said working on the mural has inspired him to explore Halifax County more, and given him a greater sense of pride in his community, and he hopes it will inspire other community members to take advantage of all that Halifax County has to offer, as well.
“We’ve got a lot of history here. And a lot of people come here just to see what nature is like and they really appreciate it,” Coleman remarked. “When you’re from here, you don’t appreciate it as much. This might intrigue people to go out there more and explore Halifax. It also gives you a sense of pride being from here.”
Coleman, who owns his own art business “Hues by O.C.,” and his girlfriend Alexis Williams started working on the mural on Sept. 27 and hope to complete the project by the middle of the month, weather permitting. The mural incorporates a combination of acrylic paint, water-based paint and spray paint.
Coleman said he hopes the public art project will introduce people to art who otherwise might not encounter it. He added the project also is in line with the style of art he depicts, which he describes as “art history fused with things that are culturally relevant.”
The mural is only one of the elements of the overall vision for the 11 ½-foot-wide, 68-foot-long alleyway between Guns N Stuff, owned by Frank Booker, and Hite Insurance, owned by Marsha Hite. Halifax assistant town manager Denise Barksdale is heading up the “Urban Thinkscape” alleyway project. Barksdale and her group secured a ChangeX grant as part of the Microsoft Sustainable Communities Challenge for the project.
Work on the project began in early spring, when group members did some cleanup of the walls connecting the alleyway and installed lights in the area.
“We are super excited about this ChangeX project and can’t wait to see the community being able to enjoy this newly developed space,” Barksdale commented at the time. “Located in the project space there will be outdoor dining available, WiFi for all to use provided by Hite Insurance, and outdoor games for kids of all ages to enjoy. We are most excited to see the mural, which is being created by local artists Coleman and Williams, and will be a great learning piece for everyone of all ages.”
The alleyway is one of several outdoor “activity hubs” that the town of Halifax plans to create in its downtown area, along with installing wayfinding signs throughout the downtown to guide visitors to important landmarks.