Championed by a local businesswoman and brought to fruition through a powerful partnership, Belhaven Heights’ new mural is a true celebration of community.
By Laurel Isbister | Photos by David Sprayberry
scroll down to watch a video about the mural
Living and owning a business in a Historic District has many charms and some unique challenges. As the Director of Strategy and Acquisitions at Belhaven Residential, Jennifer Welch is always looking for projects and partners to showcase the best of the Belhaven Heights neighborhood. Nestled between High Street and Fortification Street in Jackson, “The Heights”, as locals lovingly refer to it, boasts historic homes, Fenian’s Pub, and one of Jackson’s best local fine wine stores, Kat’s. As past president of the Belhaven Heights Community Association and board member of the Oaks House Museum, Welch brings gravitas and significant investment to the area. This spring, she found a brand new way to celebrate and amplify all that The Heights has to offer, as she and other local champions partnered to create a beautiful new mural for the neighborhood.
To bring her vision for the mural to life, Welch reached out to a former classmate from St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Douglas Panzone. “Douglas and I were in school together and I have watched his career as an artist soar,” Welch said. “I have always hoped to bring him back to Jackson to share his art with the local community.” Part of the project included a star appearance by Panzone at the “Arts on the Green” event at the school. Those watching the demonstration were entranced at the sight of Panzone’s skill using exquisitely delicate strokes from small cans of spray paint. In addition to the demonstration, children were invited to interact with an art activity provided by the Mississippi Heritage Trust, which taught them about historic preservation.
The mural itself, completed in May, features the Mississippi State Capitol building which recently underwent an extensive restoration and is now designated a National Historic Landmark. Funding for the mural project was secured through a creative public-private collaboration. The anchoring funds were provided by the Mississippi Heritage Trust through a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council and Mississippi Development Authority to commemorate Mississippi’s Bicentennial. Belhaven Residential provided a match, and additional support was offered by Beth and Collier Graham, Greater Belhaven Foundation, Jim Kopernak of Old House Depot, Sam and Leila Lane, the Oaks House Museum, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, Kathryn McWhorter Post, Pyron Insurance Group, Jasmine Sing Sandhu, and Spirit Tree Consulting.
“Partnering with Jennifer and Belhaven Residential has been a great way to combine resources,” said Lolly Rash, Executive Director of the Mississippi Heritage Trust. “The mural will educate the public about historic preservation and the value of the built environment. Jennifer’s restorations in the neighborhood are exacting with regard to historical detail, resulting in her receiving an Award of Merit from the Jackson Historic Preservation Commission in 2010.” Wherever possible, Belhaven Residential makes use of historic tax credits to restore blighted properties.
The mural depicts children creating art and learning about their world. Elements of science and nature are woven into the design as well, with several of the colorful hummingbirds that visit the local area each year depicted. According to Angel Rodhke, Assistant Director of the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, this is especially noteworthy this year. “2018 marks the one hundred year anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This mural brings in the scientific elements of hummingbirds and the flora they interact with, while allowing the mural artist to expand into his imagination and bring the subject to life.”
The partners in the project are thrilled with the mural, which Welch believes is both educational and creatively engaging. They are thankful to have been able to join together to create a lasting and joyful amenity to the area.