Making a mural: Local artist sets out to change the colors of Starkville

Starkville artist Joseph MacGown shows off his work, which represents the first mural in Starkville on city property (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

On a retaining wall facing out onto Lampkin Street near First United Methodist Church, there is a splash of vibrant color that may be easy to miss at first.

Within the context of the city of Starkville, though, the mural is much more than spray paint on concrete.

The mural was painted by 21-year-old Starkville artist Joseph MacGown, with a blessing from the city of Starkville and the financial backing of the Starkville Area Arts Council and others.

The wall is located on a city easement, which Starkville officials allowed MacGown to use as his canvas.

“The main thing I want people to know about it is the existence of it and having a mural now and being a part of the progress of having this art in town,” MacGown said as he showed off the city’s newest work of art.

MacGown and SAAC Executive Director John Bateman both thanked the support of the Del Rendon Foundation and Bell Building Supply, along with the support of an anonymous donor.

“Joseph is a talented young artist and this is the kind of talent that is here in Starkville,” Bateman said. “We want to keep these folks here. We don’t want our artists to go to Asheville or Austin or Atlanta. Let’s keep them here.”


MacGown said the mural was done over the course of a few days.

The first day was spent cleaning the wall, while it took another full day to outline the mural.

Once the outline was finished, MacGown then took a spray paint can and went to work.

He said he brought the idea to life by sketching it out with sidewalk chalk, then spray-painting over the chalk with blue paint. After waiting a few days, MacGown then returned to fill the lines and the mural was complete.

During his workday on the mural over the past weekend, MacGown said several people stopped to show interest and just watch the process.

“I had to submit a design, and a few other people did, too, and we went with something colorful,” MacGown said. “We thought that might be something nice for a first mural.”


While a popular nearby mural on the side of Restaurant Tyler was the first large work of art to be displayed downtown during Spruill’s time as mayor, MacGown’s is the first to be done on city property.

“I want to see all kinds of things associated with all of our retaining walls, our blank spaces around town, so that we can have a mural map,” Spruill said. “We can really be a community where color matters and our artists feel welcome and want to be a part of it.”

Spruill has been a vocal supporter of the arts going back to her campaign for the city’s highest office.

“Actually this is the first in the sense of an artist mural and in the typical mural tradition, this is our first one,” Spruill said. “I was so excited when the board passed what I call the Mayor’s Mural program.”

Bateman said public art gives a sense of place for the community and helps draw people together. He said it also provides access to an opportunity for people who may not get exposed to fine art.

“Art doesn’t have to be in a museum, it can be out in the streets and really change a community and bring people together,” Bateman said. “As they were painting this, people were stopping by. It’s how we build a community through the arts and create a place where people want to go.”

Anyone interested in participating on murals and other public art projects are encouraged to contact Bateman at the Starkville Area Arts Council by emailing