REGIONAL NEWS | Manchester — Things usually move slowly in small, southern towns. No one’s in a rush. We take our time deciding. Folks act a little more deliberate. But sometimes, when emotion meets inspiration synergy sparks. The right people are in the right place at the right time and something wonderful happens … quickly.
That’s what happened this past week when an area non-profit, two mural artists, a local small business, and a corporate sponsor came together to create a lasting legacy for a Manchester teen.
Two Tallahassee-based mural artists, Sarah Painter and Cosby Hayes, recently arrived in Lynchburg. DMA-events, a Tullahoma-based non-profit run by Kristin Luna and Scott van Velsor, and Jack Daniel’s Distillery brought them into this area to scout and paint mural locations as part of their Artober Project. They we’re staying at the Crutcher House, just off the Lynchburg Square, and trying to get a feel for southern, middle Tennessee.
“We like to explore when we arrive in a new community,” Sarah says. “To get a feel for the area and the people in it.”
They were slated to begin painting a mural in Tullahoma when they learned about Channing Smith, the Manchester teen who tragically took his life on Monday, September 23 after being outed by classmates on social media. They instantly knew exactly what they wanted to paint, but had no ideas how they were going to pull it together in such a small window … just 10 days.
The group reached out to the Justice for Channing Facebook page, a page run by Channing Smith’s friends and classmates. Those classmates reached out to the family.
“We really didn’t want to insert ourselves into the situation,” Luna said. “But we all felt very passionately, it was the right thing to do.”
The family said yes Monday night. Tuesday morning, Luna sent emails to a couple of friends in the Manchester area looking for the right location for the memorial mural. One of those was Foothills Crafts Board President Meri Lapham, who immediately emailed back, “What about on the side of Foothills Crafts?”
“I thought there was no way we could get approval so quickly, with Foothills being a board-managed nonprofit,” said Luna. “But Sarah and Cosby went over to meet with Meri that afternoon, sent her a design for the board to review, and that night, they signed off on it. Scott and I left immediately to meet Sarah and Cosby down at Foothills to project the drawing on the side of the building so they could outline it.”
Sarah and Cosby began painting Wednesday morning. They said throughout the work several people stopped by to thank them. Lapham added that numerous people called Foothills to thank them for “hosting such a poignant piece of art.”
“It’s such an important message,” said Lapham. “What happened here in our small town was very unsettling. We were honored to host the mural and hope it serves as a wake up call for us to be kinder to one another.”
The 20 x 30 mural now exists on the interstate-facing side of Foothills Crafts on Highway 53 right off Interstate 24 (near Exit 110). It features a smiling black and white image of Channing with several pairs of hands reaching up toward him. To the right, are the words “You are not alone,” … along with the Suicide Prevention Hotline number.
If you or someone you know is struggling with emotions or having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. If you are a teen in need of someone to talk to confidentially, please reach out to the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. DMA’s Artober project with Jack Daniel’s will continue next week with four consecutive murals going up in Tullahoma throughout the month of October. •