Hub City artists Vixon Sullivan and Kym Garraway-Braley have joined hands, hearts and paintbrushes to carry on Hattiesburg’s rock ‘n’ roll legacy.
The two spent last week creating a three-day mural of the Mississippi Jook Band on the back of a city-owned facility on East Fourth Street near the C.E Roy Community Center.
The completion of the mural comes just in time for this week’s Mobile Street Renaissance Festival and on the heels of Saturday’s ribbon cutting/dedication of the The Jook on the grounds of the former Hattiesburg American building .
The mural, simple in design, depicts the band – Blind Roosevelt Graves, his brother, Uaroy Graves and Cooney Vaughn – playing a guitar, tambourine and piano.
In July 1936, the trio recorded at the Hotel Hattiesburg once located at the corner of Mobile and Pine streets.
The mural is a collaborative effort between the City of Hattiesburg and Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Arts.
“In every major city, you will see works of art integrated into the architectural landscape,” said Mayor Toby Barker. “We want Hattiesburg to look better. We want residents in every part of the city to take pride in their neighborhood. We also know that we possess a high concentration of artistic talent. In this case, the combined talent of Vixon and Kym helped bring the spirit and history of both the Mobile Street neighborhood and our musical heritage to life through a mural. It is one more positive step toward city beautification and better quality of life.”
Sullivan, who works in a plethora of mixed medias, had never tackled a mural, so he enlisted the help of his friend Braley.
“Vixon and I I have been friends for a long time,” said Braley. “We are brothers and sisters in Christ and I always kid him – your hair goes up, mine goes down, but we are buddies.”
She said their goal is to show the culture of this area.
“But we want people to realize we can all get along and be friends no matter the color of our skin,” she said.
She described her relationship with Sullivan as “almost best friends.”
“He’s young, I’m old, he’s black, I’m white, I’m married, he’s single – the point is we are working together for the common good of the city. People need to quit all of this fighting and bickering mess. This is stupid. We are so blessed to live here. Hattiesburg is one of the most beautiful, iconic, eccentric, classy places on the planet. and why can’t we all get along? We can be friends, start a picture together and it turn out together if we work on it together.”
Sullivan said Councilwoman Deborah Delgado, whose district the mural was painted in, liked the concept.
“We hope this mural helps with the redevelopment of this area, to celebrate the cultures of the area and to inspire art in this community in general,” Sullivan said.
“And to make it pretty,” Braley added.
According to Sullivan, one of the initiatives behind the mural, is to truly show how art can have an impact on the community, and just get people excited about it whether they are purchasing it creating it or just viewing it.
“What’s cool about this one specifically is it’s visual art representing a performing art, so it pays homage to both aspects,” Sullivan said.
The subject matter of the mural was suggested by Mayor Barker, who has a music background. According to Sullivan, Barker wanted to talk about the Mississippi Jook Band because they are credited with rock ‘n’ roll in this area.
Braley said she and Sullivan wanted the mural to be clean and crisp. “You know, less is more is the big thing,” she said. “We want to make sure we kept it plain enough to get the point across but busy enough to keep the viewer’s eye there for awhile.”
“We’re excited about it for that reason,” Sullivan added.
This was Sullivan’s first mural and he asked Braley for her assistance. “He asked me to come and join forces and kind of teach him along,” said Braley. “What I love about it is I started at one end, he started at the other end and we came together in the middle and it all looks like it was created by the same artist. That is rare.”
The two artists plan to join talents in the future.
“We’re going to do more,” Braley said. “I’m going to invite him on murals that I’ve got coming up and he’s going to get me to work on some of his upcoming. Not everything, but some twhere we can join forces. When we can we will.”