Commemoration of Jonesville Community celebrated with fresco mural

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Arthur Trickett-Wile

Artist Alice Gatewood Waddell (center) visits with an attendee of an artists talk for the fresco mural (pictured left) of Jonesville that she designed on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021, at WKU’s Kentucky Museum.

Genesis Malone, News reporter

Artists Alice Gatewood Waddell and Mike Nichols commemorated the community of Jonesville with a mural Thursday Sept. 16 at the Kentucky Museum. 

According to a WKU plaque, Jonesville was a small African American community in Bowling Green founded by freed slaves shortly after the Civil War. The earliest land deed dates back to 1881. Jonesville itself was about 30 acres in size. These 30 acres were bordered by Big Red Way, Russellville Road, Dogwood Drive and the railroad tracks. 

Jonesville was demolished and is now the location of Diddle Arena, Smith Stadium, Downing Student Union and Bates Runner Hall.

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The mural is a fresco painting, created in honor of the past community. 

Fresco painting has been used since Ancient Roman times. In Fresco painting, a process of washing, drying and sifting sand and crushed marble is used, with powdered pigment added as a final touch. The mural was built using five layers of plaster, each layer taking a week to dry. Painting on wet plaster ensures the pigment is permanently locked onto the piece.

Alice Gatewood Waddell, an artist from Bowling Green, said she hopes the mural peaks interest and inspires others to seek fair treatment for all people.

”The mural depicts the curiosity of young people as they pointed to the Hill, wondering why they had no access to a place that was so near,” Waddell said. “It also provides an opportunity to preserve the history of the community that once existed and was once owned by freed slaves.” 

The mural hangs from the wall in the museum, greeting the visitors as they walk in. The mural is positioned in between two windows, overlooking the Avenue of Champions, where Jonesville once stood. Bright yellow sunflowers are included in the painting, depicting the blossoms that once graced the community. 

The project began in April and took over 10 to 12 hours a day, totaling to an estimate of over 150 hours to complete. An original painting was done by Wadell and then projected onto the fresco. The project also provided internships for three WKU students: Aisha Salifu, Cecilia Morris and Riley O’Loane.

WKU art student Aisha Salifu said it’s exciting to see everyone in attendance and how much they’ve touched the community. 

“I think being a part of this is such an honor because it’s going to be something that’s going to last forever in comparison to Jonesville that was torn down,” Salifu said.

Visitors can visit the mural in the Kentucky Museum between the hours of 9 a.m and 4 p.m. 

News reporter Genesis Malone can be reached at [email protected]