Credit: Daily Citizen-News
Downtown mural featuring Dalton's diversity nears completion
By Ryan Anderson
Motorists and pedestrians passing by the Oakwood Cafe on Pentz Street in Dalton will notice a massive mural taking shape on the restaurant’s wall, a project scheduled to be completed by Thanksgiving.
Artist Mayelli Meza was told the mural ought to represent Dalton, diversity, “who we are, where we came from and where we’re going,” so she produced a “rough sketch in watercolor” focusing on seven local girls — Tala Bikhit, Mary Susan Broadrick, Kamel Goodlett, Joy Lin, Makayla McSears, Yunuen Meza and Gauri Sheth — as female “empowerment is very important to me,” she said.
Catherine Evans Whitener, also featured in the mural, was responsible for reviving and expanding the tufted textile industry — making Dalton into a powerhouse hub of production — and “she opened the door for women to become prosperous entrepreneurs.”
A train will be part of the mural, due to the long and important railroad history in and near Dalton, as will a quilt — another nod to Whitener — the Burr Performing Arts Park, carpet rolls and a soccer player. Dalton High School has won multiple soccer state titles in recent years, both Southeast Whitfield High School and Coahulla Creek High School won state this past season, and Dalton State College’s men’s soccer team won its conference last year.
Haig Mill Lake Park, with its lake and extensive trails, will have a spot in the mural, too, said Meza’s husband, Manuel. “You can kayak, hike, bike ... there, and it’s beautiful.”
The mural is sponsored by the Leadership Dalton-Whitfield Alumni Association, with assistance from a grant from Shaw Industries, said Phyllis Stephens, chief operating officer for the Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce. Leadership Dalton-Whitfield is a chamber program. The inspiration for wall murals came from the Dalton renaissance strategic vision, a downtown master plan, which includes examples of wall murals and public art.
“The Leadership Dalton-Whitfield Alumni Association and the Leadership Dalton-Whitfield class of 2019 helped to sponsor the King Peacock mural on King Street by Ruth Par, (and) since that mural wall was a successful project — and (has become) a destination photo opportunity — it was time to look at other options for another mural,” Stephens said. “Fortunately, Kasey Carpenter,” owner/operator of the Oakwood Cafe, “held the (restaurant) wall for us to add another mural to downtown Dalton.”
Mayelli Meza has completed several other murals around town, and examples of her art are currently featured in the Creative Arts Guild’s Gallery ONE11.
“On canvas, your reach is very limited, but you can show (a mural) to all types of people in the community,” Meza said. “I love working outside, on a large scale, and I love that people can take photos with” a mural.
After meeting with Meza, “we could see she had the vision and the details in her sketch that highlighted our community so well,” Stephens said. “Her mural shares the community history, from bedspreads to the floorcovering industry, and the great quality of life that we all enjoy.”
With this mural, tentatively titled “Our Community,” Meza is “most excited about” the seven girls, all of whom are local and represent different backgrounds and races but are united together “all holding hands,” she said. “I can’t wait to have them come sign their names” under their portraits when it’s finished.