Tourism Tuesdays Jan. 28, 2020

April Walking Tours sign-up

Preserving a painful past, and wooing tourists

How Huntsville’s airport is flirting with Southwest Airlines

Induction ceremony a night of great music, great memories

Creating downtown Montgomery’s Rosa Parks sculpture

Local artwork featured in the Alabama Mural Trail

Road Scholar travel organization to host civil rights conference in Montgomery

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website


April Walking Tours sign-up
It is time to sign up for the 2020 April Walking Tours. More than 2,300 people participated in the 2019 April Walking Tours, with 30 towns across the state hosting the tours.

The hour-long tours start at 10 a.m. each Saturday in April. Dates for the 2020 April Walking Tours are April 4, 11, 18 and 25. There is no cost to participate, and the Alabama Tourism Department provides all the posters, brochures and collateral materials.

Cities or towns interested in participating in should respond with an email giving their town’s name, starting location, contact person and shipping address to The deadline to sign up for the walking tours is Feb. 14.

Preserving a painful past, and wooing tourists
From the article by Rob Hotakainen on

Mark Swiggum didn’t want to spend his days just golfing or lying on the beach after he retired as an elementary school teacher in Minnesota.

“There’s no meaning in that,” said Swiggum, 68, who lives in the wealthy Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie.

Swiggum and his wife, Leslie, have found meaning in a unique way: Since 2012, they’ve shuttled 225 people back and forth to civil rights sites in the Deep South, taking a total of 23 trips in their van.

“It’s the least I can do to give back something, to let people learn about the civil rights movement and understand its importance,” Swiggum said.

As Americans celebrate the birthday of the late Martin Luther King Jr., that’s music to the ears for Alabama tourism officials. They’re using their civil rights sites for dual purposes: to embrace the state’s painful past and to woo tourists from around the world.

“There has been a remarkable change of interest in the United States and the world in visiting civil rights landmarks,” said Lee Sentell, director of the Alabama Tourism Department. “Five years ago, there was very little interest when you talked about civil rights at international trade shows. Now what our department is finding out is Europeans are interested in American food, American music and American civil rights. This is a change in the last few years.”

Sentell boasts that Alabama has become “ground zero” in the public’s surging interest in civil rights sites.

The strategy, which includes a growing presence in Alabama for the National Park Service, appears to be paying off.

In 2018, The New York Times included Montgomery, the state’s capital, in its list of the top 52 places to visit, calling it “a city embedded in pain.” (“Even the trees that line the streets, dripping with Spanish moss like bearded old men, seem embedded with pain,” the Times said.)

And in November, Alabama won international recognition in London for its promotional campaign for the U.S. Civil Rights Trail, a collection of churches, schools, museums and courthouses where activists fought segregation in the 1950s and 1960s.

‘It’s not by accident’
The signs of the past are hard to miss in Montgomery, a former hub of the domestic slave trade and long called the birthplace of the civil rights movement.

High on a hill on the edge of downtown, a bronze statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis still stands next to the state Capitol.

It’s not far from the Baptist church where the late King organized a bus boycott that brought national attention to the budding civil rights movement in 1955.

And a few blocks away, just past the old slave market in the heart of the city, officials last month erected a statue of Rosa Parks in front of the museum that bears her name. It honors the African American woman who was arrested when she refused to move from a bus seat reserved for white passengers.

But the biggest draw is the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a museum that commemorates the 4,400 victims of lynching from 1877 to 1950. The museum opened less than two years ago and drew 400,000 visitors in its first 12 months, making it the third most visited cultural attraction in Alabama, behind the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville and the Birmingham Zoo.

In March, the National Park Service plans to open the third interpretive center along the historic Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail at Alabama State University. It will commemorate the bloody march led by King in 1965 that ultimately led to approval of the Voting Rights Act.

The park service also now manages two additional national monuments in Alabama that were created by President Obama under the Antiquities Act only days before he left office in 2017.

The Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument includes the A.G. Gaston Motel, the headquarters of a civil rights campaign led by King that was bombed in 1963, and the nearby 16th Street Baptist Church, where four young girls were killed the same year by a bomb planted by white supremacists.

In downtown Anniston, the Freedom Riders National Monument preserves the Greyhound bus station site where a group of Freedom Riders — a small interracial band of activists challenging segregation laws — was attacked in 1961. Photographs of the attack led the federal government to issue regulations that banned segregation in interstate travel.

Lance Hatten, deputy regional director of the NPS Southeast Region in Atlanta, said many of the sites “help complete the narrative” of the modern civil rights movement that was led by King, who would have turned 91 on Jan. 15.

“It’s not by accident that 50-plus years after what happened in both Birmingham and Anniston, that we find ourselves as a country very reflective on what took place in the state of Alabama,” Hatten said.

The Park Service has nine national historic sites in the state related to the “African American experience.” One of the most famous is the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, which preserves the airfield and buildings where black pilots known as the Tuskegee Airmen received flight training during World War II.

A growing NPS workforce
Park Service officials say they’ve had to beef up their workforce in Alabama in the past five years to manage the increased workload.

Altogether, the total number of employees working at national park sites in Alabama with an African American theme has jumped by 45% since 2015, from 22 to 32, said Saudia Muwwakkil, assistant regional director for communications and legislative affairs with the NPS Southeast office in Atlanta.

State officials welcome the extra federal help.

“We have a great relationship with the National Park Service because suddenly they’re staffing up in Alabama,” said Sentell, the state tourism director. “There’s a lot more presence of the National Park Service in Alabama than there ever has been.”

Sentell credits the change to former NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis, who headed the agency under Obama from 2009 to 2017. After Jarvis encouraged historians to identify more sites linked to the civil rights movement, a search led by Georgia State University found 60 of them, while state tourism directors from Southern states added more than 40 sites. They ran the gamut from schools in Topeka, Kan., and Little Rock, Ark., that served as battlegrounds in desegregation to lunch counters in Greensboro, N.C., and Nashville, Tenn., where sit-ins by black college students inspired nonviolent demonstrations, to the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., where King was assassinated April 4, 1968.

Hatten, a graduate of the historically black college Grambling State University in Louisiana, said the stories the sites tell “are very personal for me,” with both of his parents having been born in Alabama. He said his father had to attend segregated schools and lived in fear in a society where African Americans “had to be especially deferential or incur violence.”

“I really do believe in my heart that these stories are part of our citizenship experience and understanding that democracy is always expanding — and those expansions happen through a huge amount of sacrifice,” Hatten said.

Sentell said tourism spending in Alabama hit $17 billion last year, up from $6 billion when he joined the state department in 2003. He said there’s no doubt the National Memorial for Peace and Justice has led the surge, even though he said he was ambivalent about adding it to the U.S. Civil Rights Trail.

“I had mixed emotions about it because we market the Civil Rights Trail as places where African Americans overcame hardships and discrimination, and the topic of lynchings is a very emotional topic that our country has never addressed,” Sentell said. “But the success of it shows what a powerful draw it is.”

Sitting outside the museum on a warm day in November, Swiggum, the retired Minnesota teacher, handed out tickets to the 19 people he had taken to Montgomery on his most recent trip. He joked that it’s harder to find parking downtown for his van these days compared with eight years ago, but he wasn’t complaining, saying there’s “important work to be done” during his retirement.

“We’re a long way from where we thought we were,” Swiggum said.

His wife, Leslie, who’s also a retired teacher, said the couple are “planting seeds with the people we bring down,” hoping the travel will make them reflect on what they can do to advance the cause of civil rights.

“There’s so much work to be done,” she said. “What do we do now?”

For the complete article please see

How Huntsville’s airport is flirting with Southwest Airlines
From the article by Paul Gattis on

In the immediate aftermath of being voted the nation’s best small airport by USA Today’s 10 Best’s Reader Choice, Huntsville International Airport focused its attention in one direction: Southwest Airlines.

The airport over the weekend did some heavy duty social media flirting with Southwest, the nation’s largest low-cost carrier that does not operate in Huntsville.

Just call it a modern-day love story.

“18 days from today will be the Day of Love — Valentine’s Day,” the airport tweeted from its account Monday, Jan. 27 afternoon. “All the hearts, all the love and all the kisses but @FlyHSV doesn’t want to wait another minute to show @SouthwestAir what you could mean to us … we have so much LUV to give. #HSVWantsSouthwest #NeverGiveUpOnLUV.”

Make no mistake. Hearts are pounding at Huntsville International for Southwest Airlines to start operations at the state’s second-busiest airport.

In a public pursuit to grab Southwest’s attention, the airport is planning a wave of social media messages. In fact, Monday’s message is the first of a series of messages targeting Southwest leading up to Valentine’s Day.

Yes, a modern-day cyber love story.

It started Sunday night.

“You know what … We’ve decided that from now until Valentine’s Day at least once per day we are going to be showing @SouthwestAir how much we could LUV them.” And among the hashtags included in the tweet: #HSVWantsSouthwest.

It’s an effort for the airport to ride a wave of momentum it perhaps has never seen – being voted the best small airport at a time when Huntsville is experiencing dizzying growth. And there was a certain symmetry as well as Southwest was voted the nation’s best airline in the USA Today online polls that spotlighted the airline industry.

Which the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama noticed.

Of course, any airport’s recruitment of Southwest or any other carrier would be far more sophisticated than bombarding its social media timelines. But it’s also a public tap on the shoulder, a flirtation, that could lead to that magical spark.

That’s reflected in the airport’s social media timeline being bombarded itself over the weekend with calls for bringing Southwest to Huntsville. And the airport’s Twitter account only fanned the flames of flirtation with Southwest.

For its part, Southwest responded to a couple of messages about Huntsville to its Twitter account over the weekend:

“Hey, Ricky! While we don’t currently have plans to offer service to Huntsville, you never know what the future holds! Still, we’ll be glad to welcome you onboard when your travel includes the cities we serve.”

The biggest issue for Huntsville and Southwest, perhaps, are Birmingham and Nashville. Birmingham’s airport about 95 miles to the south and Nashville’s airport about 124 miles to the north are already homes to Southwest. The airline also operates out of Memphis to the west and Atlanta to the east.

The key to overcoming that issue, the airport said, is to #StopTheDrive. That translates to a call to Huntsville-area travelers to stop flying Southwest out of Birmingham and Nashville and, if the airline sees the decline in customer ZIP codes from the Huntsville area, that could lure them to Huntsville International.

Then again, to look at the map of cities where Southwest operates is to see an airline not necessarily concerned with what appears to be overlapping service areas.

Still, the online vote has catapulted Huntsville International into a spotlight that would not have been available if not for its successful social media campaign that pushed it into the top spot.

“Just getting the word out among the community and everybody energized about the airport helped us out,” said Rick Tucker, the airport’s CEO. “There was a lot of communication there helping people understand what it takes to get more service, lower the fares, and so it was a good education piece. It was good educationally for our community to learn more about us.

“At the same time, we’re getting the word out. We all know what kind of growth we’re seeing economically here, and this is another way to let the nation and world know what a great place our region is to do business.”

And as for potentially capturing the attention of airlines that don’t currently operate at Huntsville International?

“I’m confident,” Tucker said, “that our marketing people who work daily with all of the airlines that currently serve us, the ones we’re trying to attract, I’m sure they’ve already sent this out to them to let them know that we’re No. 1.”

For the complete article please see

Induction ceremony a night of great music, great memories
From the article by Russ Corey on

Gary Baker’s smile beamed across the Marriott Shoals Conference Center’s banquet hall Saturday as he was handed the crystal award signifying his induction into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

The award was presented to the Grammy-winning Sheffield bassist/songwriter/producer by two of his best friends, Backstreet Boys members Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson.

“All I wanted to do was be one of y’all,” he said, referring to the Shoals musicians he spent years watching and learning from.

Baker was one of four Alabama music achievers to be inducted into the repository of the state’s deep, varied musical history during the sold out biennial honors and awards banquet.

The hall of fame also inducted pioneering rhythm and blues singer Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, who was born in Ariton, and Birmingham entrepreneur/businessman Elton Bryson Stephens, whose philanthropy and business sense helped save the Alabama Symphony Orchestra.

The fourth inductee was Huntsville native Mervyn Warren, a multi-faceted entertainment industry professional who is a performer, songwriter, television and film score composer, and producer.

“American Idol” runner-up Bo Bice and the star-studded house band opened the show with The Rolling Stones’ classic “Brown Sugar,” a track recorded only a few miles away at Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in December 1969.

Huntsville blues guitarist “Microwave” Dave Gallaher of the popular Microwave Dave and The Nukes took the stage not as a performer, but the evening’s first presenter.

Gallaher said Thornton was the daughter of a Baptist preacher and that she ended up working in a local tavern. Her first hit, Lieber and Stoller’s “Hound Dog,” was cut with a three-piece band.

Thornton’s posthumous award was accepted by Jessi Olsen, a member of the board of directors of the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in Flatbush, New York, and student Willow Bennison.

“She taught me to be powerful and true to myself,” Olsen said. “We’re proud to accept this award.”

“Thank you for inducting Willie Mae, finally,” Bennison said.

Shoals R&B singer Carla Russell joined the house band to perform a pair of Thornton’s biggest hits, “Hound Dog” and Thornton’s self-composed “Ball and Chain.”

Alabama Symphony Orchestra General Manager Mark Patrick said the Alabama Symphony Orchestra is the only professional orchestra in the state of Alabama.

Stephens’ grandson, Bart Stephens, accepted the posthumous award on behalf of his grandfather, who founded EBSCO Industries in Birmingham and grew it into one of the largest companies in the state.

“My grandfather would love to have seen what you have done here with the hall of fame,” he said.

Stephens said his grandfather was a persistent and demanding sales person, but one who believed from early in his life that it was important to give back to his community.

“It’s incredibly humbling,” he said during a phone interview Friday. “This is a little bit unexpected, but just incredibly humbling and flattering. I know he would appreciate it deeply.”

Stephens’ induction is unique because he wasn’t a musician. “There is not a tradition in our family of musicianship, but there is a deep tradition of the appreciation of music,” Stephens said.

Bryson Stephens said his grandfather and grandmother, Alys Stephens, both cared for the symphony and wanted to see it become financially stable.

“We’re proud of him,” grandson Bryson Stephens said. “He certainly did a lot for the symphony.”

Littrell and Richardson thanked Baker for the impact they had on the career of the Backstreet Boys and how he accepted them as part of his family.

“What can you say about Gary Baker,” Littrell said. “Small town guy with big dreams.”

He said Baker gave him the courage and strength to believe in himself.

Richardson said his first trip to the Shoals was in 1998, and he hopes the Backstreet Boys can claim to be part of the rich legacy of Muscle Shoals music.

He said the group jumped at the chance to work with Baker on their sophomore album.

Richardson became emotional when he talked about how Baker and his family welcomed him into their home and treated him as one of the family.

“He was a collaborating mentor and friend, and a part of our family to the end,” Richardson said.

Baker thanked the previous inductees and his family for living through the hard times.

“You made all the good times sweeter and the bad times meaningless,” Baker said, “I am Southern by choice, y’all. I’ll close by saying, rock on.”

Baker and the house band played “I Swear,” the track that won he and co-writer Frank Myers Grammys, and “I’m Already There,” a Baker penned track recorded by the country band Lonestar.

Fifth season “American Idol” winner and hall of fame board member Taylor Hicks came out to announce the Alabama Music Hall of Fame’s first Advocacy Award to the late Shoals businessman, WLAY radio station owner D. Mitchell Self.

Country Artist Jamey Johnson, of Enterprise, and the house band performed Keith Whitley’s “Would These Arms Be In Your Way” and “Stars in Alabama,” a track he co-wrote with Teddy Gentry, singer and bassist for the Grammy-winning country group Alabama.

Mark Kibble, a member of the acapella gospel sextet Take 6, which helped launch Warren’s career, said he met Warren at 12 and began playing music with him at 13 years old.

He said both of them had a connection to harmony. He said artists want to work with Warren because he’s a genius and perfectionist.

Warren accepted his award and held it over his head before thanking the hall of fame and his family, many of whom were in attendance.

“I am honored to be a part of this lovely evening,” he said. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart. There’s no place like home.”

To close the show, Shoals hit songwriter Mark Narmore and the house band performed a moving version of the Donnie Fritts classic “We Had It All” as images of Shoals artists who died in 2019 flashed upon a screen. Singer/songwriter Fritts and Swampers guitarist Jimmy Johnson were among those artists the Shoals bid farewell to last year.

Bice and Hicks returned to the stage to perform the unofficial state song, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic “Sweet Home Alabama,” with the house band.

The honors and awards banquet is the hall of fame’s biggest fundraising event.

For the complete article please see

Creating downtown Montgomery’s Rosa Parks sculpture
From the article by Shannon Heupel on

Two sisters stand in Montgomery, creations of love and patience made in the image of a civil rights icon.

One is a strong and resilient bronze observer, clutching her purse in both hands, forever waiting at a street corner.

Another, the first born, is a feat of clay. She’s made of investigation, discussion and many, many months of labor. Most people will never see her in person.

On May 16 last year, Montgomery artist Clydetta Fulmer was commissioned to create a life-size bronze statue of Rosa Parks, whose arrest on Dec. 1, 1955, sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In honor of Parks and Alabama’s 200th birthday celebration, the statue was unveiled on Dec. 1, 2019.

“I thought it was an honor and an opportunity,” said Fulmer, who has several other commissioned sculptures in Montgomery. She sculpted the bronze statue of Gen. Richard Montgomery that was unveiled last year, and also has statues of Helen Keller as a child, Saint Margaret Queen of Scotland, Gene and Mark Stallings, and more. Several of her pieces are at Faulkner University.

“Clydetta is a fantastic artist. She has work all over the country. She’s a very humble woman, but she has done a lot of important work over her career,” said Ashley Ledbetter, who was the project manager for the Rosa Parks statue. Ledbetter also serves as executive director of the Montgomery Area Business Committee for the Arts and chairman for Montgomery’s Public Art Commission.

The real Parks was 5 foot, 3 inches in height. Her 300-pound bronze statue is the same, though it gets a little boost from 2 inch heels and a hat.

Standing there on the sidewalk at the end of Dexter Avenue, with her back to the Capitol and an unwavering gaze and smile toward Court Square Fountain, she looks like any other person from a distance. There’s no raised platform.

“When I worked on the statue in my studio, it was always on a platform that was about 10 inches tall. At the foundry, it was also on a platform,” Fulmer said. “When we set her in place here on the sidewalk, we said she looks so small.”

In 1955, Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery city bus. Under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., black residents refused to ride city buses after Parks’ arrest. After 381 days of boycott, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation on public buses was unconstitutional.

Fulmer remembers a comment on the day the bronze Parks was unveiled that it was “amazing and humbling that such a small lady would make such a tremendous difference.”

Early steps
One of the city’s leaders who pushed to get this project done is former Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange.

“Mayor Todd Strange really wanted to create a statue of Mrs. Parks in celebration of the city’s and the state’s bicentennial anniversaries,” Ledbetter said.

“I told (Strange) I thought he was very generous to commission a statue that wouldn’t be completed until he was out of office,” Fulmer said.

The first stages of work on this project actually began before Fulmer was commissioned.

With a historic figure like Parks, it’s not a simple process to create a likeness for public use. Ledbetter said it took months of talks with the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development in Detroit to get the intellectual property rights for a Rosa Parks statue.

With the institute’s blessing, Ledbetter said a three-member oversight committee was formed with Felicia Bell (director of Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum), Howard Robinson (archivist for Alabama State University Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African American Culture), and Nathaniel Allen (ASU’s art department chair and a member of the Public Art Commission).

“Those three individuals were the ones who really worked for the next six months on decisions,” Ledbetter said. “For instance, what age would (Rosa Parks) be? What stance? How would the statue be located? Where should it go?”

Once Fulmer was on board, she downloaded many photographs of Rosa Parks at various ages to get a point of reference.

“They wanted her portrayed on the day at the end of the Bus Boycott,” Fulmer said. “At that time, she was 42 years old. She said one time that people generally thought of her as being elderly when she did this. She was not.”

“(Fulmer’s) studio would look like a CSI show, because she would have hundreds of pictures,” Ledbetter said.

Montgomery hairdresser Allena Curry Norman assisted on getting the hairstyle right.

“The day of the victory ride was a preplanned event, so (Parks) had her hair done that day in a different style than she normally had it,” Ledbetter said.

Kimberly Brown Pellum, who is roughly the same size as Parks, was selected to be the statue’s model. Fulmer took rough measurements from Pellum from her head to her feet. “That gave me the framework to work from,” Fulmer said.

“The Alabama Shakespeare Festival was instrumental in the correct types of clothing,” Ledbetter said.

Ledbetter said the Alabama Tourism Department, Montgomery County Commission, Montgomery City Council and Mayor Strange all contributed to funding the project.

Sculpting Rosa Parks
When Fulmer signed the contract to create the Parks statue, she was a little apprehensive about meeting the Dec. 1 unveiling deadline. After all, she usually asks for a year to work on this kind of project.

Instead, she had a little under seven months.

“Thank the Lord that we made it,” Fulmer said, adding that she had to put in a lot of overtime effort. This was the fastest sculpture of this magnitude she’s ever done.

The first version of Fulmer’s Parks statue is a lifesize clay figure. But before there was clay, there were sticks. She had to create a framework.

“Just as you have a skeleton inside of you, the clay statue has to have a skeleton inside of it,” Fulmer said. “I built that out of wood. It just looked like a stick figure, because that’s what it is.”

The figure’s joints were made from metal braces, which allowed her to make adjustments to Parks’ limbs, then screw them tight. The hands were made of coated wire, which allowed them to be bent and adjusted.

Then came hundreds of pounds of oil-based clay.

“I built up clay for several months,” Fulmer said. “At various points, the committee would come out to my studio and see it, make comments to approve this or that, or mention things they wanted changed.”

“We met frequently at her studio,” Bell said. “We were able to join in on her creative process and watch her develop this work of art over time.”

“They would make decisions about the hairstyle. They would make decisions about the hat placement. The shoes, and if the dress needed to be longer or shorter. Those kinds of things,” Ledbetter said.

Several other groups also stopped by as well to watch the progress, including Mayor Strange who made his own slight adjustment on the hat.

Some of the visitors to Fulmer’s studio knew Parks in life.

“They might suggest one little touch or one little change,” Fulmer said. “That was important to them.”

“Miss Fulmer is very detail oriented as she creates,” Bell said. “It was a privilege to work with her and to be a part of this process.”

Bronze casting
After getting final approval on clay Parks, it was time for this sculpture to help give birth to bronze Parks’ final cast form.

This stage requires a lot of trust on Fulmer’s part. Her delicate clay sculpture was about to be covered in many layers of flexible mold materials, something that if done wrong could ruin the work.

“You’ve got to have complete confidence in the foundry to not disturb your art, and not make changes,” Ledbetter said. “Because they can mess it up.”

Fortunately, Fulmer put her trust in Corey Swindle of the Fairhope Foundry. They’ve cast other statues around Montgomery, including the Supreme Court justices downtown.

Instead of one big mold, Fulmer said Swindle created 20 small molds of Parks to take back to the foundry. Fulmer said the hands of the clay statue had to be cut off and cast separately.

“When they pull the mold off of the clay, some damage is done to the clay,” Fulmer said.

These molds were used to create wax castings.

“I went down to the foundry and touched up the wax,” Fulmer said. “I heated my little metal tools up with a blow torch and touched up any imperfections.”

When the wax pieces were ready, the foundry dipped them into a ceramic mixture and then reinforced it, creating a strong ceramic shell.

What happened next is called lost-wax bronze casting. They used the furnace to melt the wax out, leaving the shape in the ceramic shells.  The shells would then have molten bronze poured into them.

“Then the shell is broken off. Those 20 pieces are welded back together,” Fulmer said. “The welds are sanded, and any imperfections are touched up in the metal.”

Fulmer said the last piece to be attached was Parks’ glasses, which are slightly larger than in real life to ensure strength and stability.

“I was really pleased with how it turned out,” Fulmer said.

Now that the Parks puzzle was all together, the next step was to give it the right patina. It involved heating the bronze and spraying chemicals to create the right color.

“Patinas can really change the appearance of a statue,” Ledbetter said.

“At that point, it’s ready to be delivered to the site.” Fulmer said.

A hole was ground into the sidewalk to insert Parks’ base. They made it so Parks’ feet are flush with the pavement, just a figure standing there waiting on her bus.

“Our city building maintenance guys did a great job of installing her,” Ledbetter said.

Ledbetter said new Mayor Steven Reed also supported the project and was helpful with the dedication and surrounding events.

So, short of some kind of accident, how long can a bronze statue like this last out in the elements.

“Barring a catastrophe of some kind, it should be here,” Fulmer said. “There are statues that are cast in bronze that were in existence in ancient Greece and Rome.”

More ahead for clay
Other than the clay statue’s hands being removed, and the mold messing up her hair and coat tail a little, Fulmer said clay Parks received surprisingly little damage from the mold making process.

Fulmer said if the need arose, the clay version could be restored fairly easily. For now, this statue is still standing at Fulmer’s shop, though this likely isn’t her clay’s final form.

“What I do is, after a certain period of time, I clean the clay and recycle it,” Fulmer said.

For the complete article please see

Local artwork featured in the Alabama Mural Trail
From the article by Sarah McBride on

If Alabama’s old brick walls and cracked building facades could talk, they would likely tell an elaborate story of a state that’s experienced profound transformation in the past century. Downtown drags coming to life, falling into disrepair, then experiencing a rebirth — these are just some of the storylines that might emerge if these walls could talk.

Thanks to countless artists — and an initiative led by the University of Alabama’s Tourism & Community Development Center — those stories are becoming less speculation and more concrete.

For the past few months, the Tourism & Community Development Center (an extension of the university’s Center for Economic Development), has been curating a list of Alabama’s public murals. From large-scale street art to small-scale scenes depicting community character, these murals, collectively, help tell the story of our state.

The goal of the initiative — currently referred to as The Alabama Mural Trail — is to locate murals in all 67 Alabama counties. To date, Cullman has submitted more than 20 murals to be featured in the project.

“With Cullman’s murals, it tells the history of the community,” said Susan Eller of the Cullman Economic Development Agency. “Many of the buildings in the Historic Central Business District have signs of former businesses. It reminds us of how much the community has grown, but also keeps a link to the past.”

Pride of Place
Candace Johnson, community development project manager leading the charge for the Mural Trail, said the goal of the project is to visually capture the concept of Placemaking in each Alabama county. Placemaking, Johnson explained, is a way for communities to capitalize on their public spaces to create scenes that promote a sense of joy and wholeness while also driving foot traffic to areas of town that might not otherwise be visited.

“Murals are the perfect way to do that,” she said.

By compiling a list of counties, murals, and artists, the project will collectively help tell the story of Alabama and its communities. So far, the project has collected information on 474 murals — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg, Johnson said.

“When this first started in my head I thought, ‘we’ll have this nice printed piece that people can check off like a passport,’” Johnson said. “Well, clearly that is going to take on a different life and we’re going to do a lot of it digitally.”

What the final product of The Alabama Mural Trial will look like is still to be determined. It could be a social media platform, a book, a website — or maybe all three. One thing is for certain, however. Cullman will have a great presence in the project. With dozens of murals already submitted, the city is doing its part to make sure Cullman is on the Alabama mural map.

“Through efforts of the Cullman Historical Society and contributions from the City of Cullman, many of the old painted signs have been refurbished and have become pieces of art with a link to our history,” Eller said, adding that murals also give a nice boost to city tourism in that they encourage visitors to explore the area — and maybe take a “selfie,” or two, when they spot a colorful patch of wall.

With many murals already dotting the downtown area and beyond, the Mural Trail will certainly have enough material to work with when it comes to spotlighting the city of Cullman.

A Peek Behind the Paint
Behind every painted train, sprawling landscape and larger-than-life angel wing, there’s an artist who mapped out the massive painting first in their mind, then picked up a paintbrush and brought it to life. A big part of the Mural Trail, Johnson said, will be giving credit to the artists and entities responsible for the murals.

“It feels wonderful to capture something on paper or canvas and then bring something to life,” said Bethany Kerr, the artist responsible for the “Welcome to Cullman” mural on Newman’s Cleaners building. “There is a satisfaction there that I can’t really seem to find in anything else.”

Kerr teamed up with the Cullman County Historical Society in 2010 to bring a splash of color to the city. After approaching the county commission and sharing her vision to make Cullman a little more colorful, Kerr learned that the city was already engaged in a historical mural project. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect — except for one small caveat.

“By the time they had approved the mural project, I was eight months pregnant,” Kerr said. “But I felt like I couldn’t pass up such an amazing opportunity, so I painted both while in my third trimester.”

“There is a personal touch and a history created with each mural,” Kerr said. “Murals give communities a strong sense of identity, and I think they are something to be proud of and can be enjoyed for decades and even centuries if done well.”

Adding to the List
As the Alabama Mural Trail continues to grow and evolve, Johnson said she hopes by the end, Alabama and its 67 counties will have a list of artwork that communities, artists and visitors can be proud of. Because art can be found almost anywhere, she encourages folks to keep a keen eye out for a little bit of art in their neighborhood. No matter how small or large, she said, each splash of color tells a story.

“We want anything that might be a mural to get on the list because public art can cross so many boundaries,” she said. “Social boundaries, economic boundaries, even language barriers. We want every community to have the opportunity to be highlighted.”

For the complete article please see

Road Scholar travel organization to host civil rights conference in Montgomery
From the article by Mike Cason on

Road Scholar, a not-for-profit educational travel company, announced it would hold its first Conference on Civil Rights in Montgomery next month.

Road Scholar picked Montgomery for the eight-day, seven night conference because of the city’s pivotal role in the civil rights movement, including the arrest of Rosa Parks and the ensuing Montgomery bus boycott that led to a Supreme Court ruling outlawing segregation in public transportation, and the Selma-to-Montgomery march that sparked passage of the federal Voting Rights Act. The conference will be Feb. 4-10.

Speakers will include Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of “Just Mercy,” Carolyn McKinstry, survivor of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, and Sheyann Webb-Christburg, who marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma on “Bloody Sunday” in 1965 at age 9.

Participants in the conference will also visit monuments, museums and historical sites throughout the city. They will hold a roundtable discussion on what they learned.

Road Scholar has offered 5,500 learning adventures in 150 countries, the organization says on its website.

For the complete article please see

“Partner Pointer” for the tourism industry website
With Alabama Tourism’s promotion Photo ALbum, visitors can upload their photos into our Photo ALbum template and have their book printed and shipped to them for FREE! Such a great way to showcase your experience.

To read more about the promotion, visit


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