When the Corbin Tourism Commission first brought the 2132 locomotive to Corbin, I think many people, including myself, had some serious doubts about whether it would actually attract visitors to downtown.
Without a doubt, the funniest comment about it came from then Corbin Police Chief David Campbell, who remarked to me shortly after the locomotive arrived but before it was refurbished that “it looks like a tetanus shot waiting to happen to me.” (It did look pretty rough in the beginning, but polished up quite well.)
As someone, whose office parking lot is right in front of the locomotive, I can attest that it does in fact bring people to downtown Corbin along with the statue of Colonel Harland Sanders in nearby Sanders Park. In fact, these attractions bring quite a few visitors to downtown. It is kind of surprising.
I have seen people out there at all hours of the day and evening taking pictures of the train and with the train, and tourists also frequently stop by to check out Sanders Park.
The bottom line is that Corbin has found a way to bring visitors to its downtown through public art projects.
I think Williamsburg has the potential to do something similar with a mural trail – for lack of a better term to call it – that could potentially bring quite a few visitors. The best part about this project is that there is already a good start, and there are a few things that could be done fairly easily to dramatically knock down the cost of the project.
First let’s start with what is already in place. Last year the Whitley County Community Green Dot program commissioned Hilary Baker to paint a butterfly mural that was placed on the side of the WEKC building on Fourth Street.
Josh “Spanky” Bunch then painted another butterfly mural on the side of the Butcher’s Pub, which is also located on Fourth Street.
The Whitley County Community Green Dot program is painting another mural at the Kentucky Splash waterpark.
Why Whitley is planning to place at least one mural in the green space located at the corner of Third and Main streets where the River Fog Festival is held. (It is the lot where the Gorman Jones building used to sit.) Why Whitley is currently in the process of building a stage there and other amenities.
This gives us at least four outdoor murals to begin, which is a nice start.
Most of the cost in murals is paying the artist to paint them.
There is a way we can dramatically reduce that cost while also increasing community involvement in the project, which is to get high school art classes at Williamsburg and Whitley County high schools to do the murals as class art projects.
After making a small donation to the art programs at each school for their trouble, you are then down to simply the cost of materials, which would probably run between $1,000 – $1,500 for each mural.
If this occurred, it would give us six outdoor murals to start with, plus one indoor mural, which is being painted inside a local building, but isn’t complete yet.
This is a nice start.
If we involved art students at the University of the Cumberlands and got some of them to paint murals as part of senior art projects, then there is the potential for more murals that could be done at a reduced cost.
Some may scoff at the notion that a public art project could bring visitors to Williamsburg and particularly downtown Williamsburg. Then again many, including myself, initially scoffed at the notion of an old train bringing visitors to downtown Corbin.