Then and Now mural

Ellen Elms speaks to a large crowd during the unveiling ceremony for Tazewell’s ‘Then and Now’ mural Sunday. Elms, center, is surrounded by some of the artists and key people who helped make the mural a reality. 150 artists from Tazewell and its surrounding communities ranging from very young to elderly helped paint the colorful mural.

TAZEWELL — The community of the Town of Tazewell gathered to dedicate the town’s newest mural, on Sunday.

“I really appreciate that I’m kind of like a fixture on Main Street in Tazewell. That’s permanent, and I’m a part of it,” South West College student, Joseph Ball, said. Ball took part in the design and painting of the mural, located on Main Street, of the two motorcycle figures on the mural, paying homage to the Back of the Dragon and Tazewell’s motorcycle culture.

Designing, and working on, large parts of the mural, entitled “Then and Now,” were students of Tazewell Elementary School, North Tazewell Elementary School, Tazewell Middle School, Tazewell High School, and Tazewell County Career and Technical Center. The mural depicts in Tazewell from the past to the present.

Figures and scenes depicted historically and modernly include coal miners, athletes, musicians, and more. Also on the mural are multiple types of wildlife ranging from bears to birds. The animals were all designed by 5th-grade students, according to artist Ellen Elmes.

The children that were involved with working on the mural were selected by their teachers, according to Elmes. After selection, the children were allowed to express their creativity.

“This will make people want to come to visit and brighten up the place for everyone to enjoy,” Sage Alley, Tazewell High School senior, said. Alley is depicted in the lower right-hand corner of the mural, leisurely drawing.

Of the high school students chosen to be portrayed in the painting, they were asked to draw themselves doing what they most like to do. After this drawing they were matched with a person from the past, performing the same, or a similar task.

“This is a landmark for the people that worked on it,” Paige Jewell, Tazewell High School senior, said. Jewell is also depicted on the mural, near the top left, playing tennis. Next to her, is a female also playing tennis but dressed in historic tennis garb.

“It’s so important to draw everyone together through the artistic aspect,” Gabriel Keene, Tazewell High School student, said, “It’s amazing to see so many people working together.”

Keene is also depicted on the mural, in the lower-left corner, next to a member of the Adams family. According to Keene, the Adams family are one of the first settling families of Tazewell.

“I’ve been a part of over 30 murals in my adult life and this is the most community made mural I’ve ever been a part of,” Elmes said.

Contact Emily D. Coppola at

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