Paris native brings history to life with downtown murals

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PARIS, TX -- Take a walk through downtown Paris and you'll see lots of historic buildings covered with painted murals, but much of that art is decades old and fading away.

Members of the Paris Historic Preservation Committee have recently debated whether to add murals downtown or revitalize old murals with fresh paint.

"Murals can tell a very important story about, not just the downtown area, but the Paris area in general," said Historic Preservation Officer Joey Sleeper.

20-year old Paris native, August Hunt, walked around downtown during his Christmas break from college, an area he called his backyard as a child, and noticed several rundown buildings. When he came back from school in the summer he met with Main Street Coordinator Cheri Bedford.

"August came to me, in my office, and kind of told me his vision about how he wanted to bring some culture to Paris," said Bedford.

August worked with the city and the Historic Preservation Committee to allow him to put up three-non permanent murals downtown. Through the sponsorship of First Federal Bank, Uptown Properties and Early American Art Forms, August was able to put the murals up with no cost to the city.

"We're starting to get these new stores and restaurants, but now lets bring in the arts, the youth, the young people," said Hunt. "Also bring the older generation back, look up their history."

The murals are blown up historical photographs from the Paris area. The photos consist of of several strips of paper put up with wallpaper paste and coated with an acrylic, helping the murals withstand the weather.

"I guarantee this photo for a year, but it could be up for 5 years," said Hunt.

Hunt sifted through numerous photographs in the Aikin Archives at Paris Junior College's library, before choosing the three he chose.

"After I found the locations, I looked for photos that spoke to that spot in particular," said Hunt.

There are two murals on South Main, across from the Gibraltar Hotel. One features a group of people standing next to bicycles and the other, a row of taxis waiting outside the hotel.

The third, and largest, mural rests on the only wall remaining from the Dixon Furniture building, that collapsed during a 2008 fire. The image capturing a family picking cotton is 32-feet tall and just under 19-feet wide.

This week August leaves Paris back to college, but not after leaving his mark on Paris.