By Madoline Markham
Photos by Lindsey Culver & Contributed

Travel to urban areas nationwide, and you’ll find they are far more colorful than they once were. Where drab grey brick walls once stood, colorful murals now draw eyes to public art.

“I went through some places (in Atlanta) where every wall was painted, and it was gorgeous,” mural artist Shawn Fitzwater says. “It was like walking into another world because of how much public art they have, some of them 50 feet tall.”



Now as he drives around Homewood and downtown Birmingham, Shawn sees blank canvases everywhere.

Back in 2018, though, that wasn’t the case. At the time he ran a bicycle advertising business when he stumbled into painting business signs, first for Ash in West Homewood and later for Neighborhood Nutrition Sign, Grocery Brewpub, Pizzeria GM and others. By the time that business was taking off in 2019, Shawn was thinking about how murals bring communities closer and give them identity, how they liven up a city and draw customers to businesses too.

The first place to come to his mind to create one was his own neighborhood, where he’d grown up and is now raising his own family. Before long he’d painted a “community tree” on Oxmoor Road in West Homewood and was thinking up new designs for all the canvases he saw.

Meanwhile, Ignite Properties owner and Homewood resident Adam Thrower had caught the public art bug too after seeing its prevalence in Denver. First up he commissioned artist Marcus Fetch to paint a mural of Miss Fancy, the elephant from the zoo that had been located in Avondale, on a commercial building he owned there, and from there he and Marcus collaborated on murals to bring new life to drab walls on his office building in downtown Homewood and another on a commercial building on Oxmoor Road in West Homewood.

“My goal is not to get someone to take a photograph but for people to come by and smile,” Thrower says. “I wanted to take a relatively colorless bleak alley and to make something people can enjoy.”

And for each new palette of colors that goes up on a street we drive or walk on, our city is that much richer—and hopefully makes many people smile too.

Homewood Is Always a Good Idea

Artists: Creighton & Andrew Tyne

 Linda Brantley has always liked Audrey Hepburn, so when she was having a business sign painted before opening Roman Brantley Antiques, she decided to add Audrey’s portrait to liven up the side of the old white garage building. She googled famous sayings by Audrey and edited one about Paris to read, “Homewood is always a good idea.”

We All Are in This Together

Artist: Shawn Fitzwater

As the COVID-19 pandemic cast a dark shadow on Homewood last spring, Shawn Fitzwater thought the community needed an uplifting message and wanted to contribute to one as an artist. He’d had this wall on Central Avenue in mind for a mural for a while anyway, so one day he painted these words on it without asking anyone first. Although the mural was painted over as previously planned by the building’s owners, its legacy lives on on a T-shirt bearing its design that Shawn partnered with Vulcan Apparel to sell with proceeds going to meals for frontline workers through BHM Cares and in nationwide news coverage from an Associated Press article on the mural that ran that spring.

Farm Bowl + Juice Co. Colors

Artist: Collin Vaughn

Farm Bowl + Juice Co. owner Andrea Snyder first discovered the mural trend on a trip to San Diego before the restaurant concept opened, and she soon realized that the exterior wall of their new building in downtown Homewood could be the perfect blank canvas to incorporate a mural.  Today its colorful geometric design has become a favorite backdrop for Instagram posts and photo shoots alike.

Color TV Ad

Artist: Shawn Fitzwater

Shawn Fitzwater had had his eye on this fading ad in Edgewood from the 1960s for a while when the owners of Trilogy Leather and Seguro Insurance approached him about doing just that. As he brought it back to life, Shawn wanted to keep the ad’s vintage look intact.

Blue Edgewood Mural

Artist:  Shawn Fitzwater

Shawn Fitzwater reached out to the owners of the Engaged Wedding Library building facing the Chevron station in Edgewood wanting to paint a mural on its blank wall, and the owners, who also own Vulcan Apparel Company, ended up designing these blue letters. They considered adding more to the design to it but ultimately decided to leave it simple with just the large painted lettering. “People say, ‘This mural makes me smile every time I drive by,” Shawn says.

Community Tree

Artist: Shawn Fitzwater

After painting business signs for a while, Shawn Fitzwater wanted to paint a mural in and for West Homewood, where he grew up and lives now. He approached the owners of the Big Color building about it, and they were on board to use their wall since it would help draw customers to their business. Shawn wanted the mural to be all about the community and wrote out street names in the area as the leaves in the tree design.

West Homewood Community Mural: Coming Soon

Artist: Shawn Fitzwater

One day Shawn Fitzwater was kicking the ball in Patriot Park with his kids when he noticed how the wall on the back of the bathroom building facing the field was a blank canvas. He reached out to the city and ended up collaborating with the West Homewood Neighborhood Association and Homewood Parks & Recreation Board to create a design contest for it. The mural is scheduled to be completed by May.

Whimsical Girl

Artist: Marcus Fetch

When Marcus Fetch started to work with Ignite Properties owner Adam Thrower on a concept for his business’s building on Crescent Avenue, he hadn’t ever painted a mural of a person, and so they decided to do one of Adam’s daughter Audrey, who was around 8 years old at the time. Marcus chatted with Audrey to get inspiration for the design and ended up designing a visual abstract representation of her imagination with a bunny inspired by one of Audrey’s stuffed animals. “It was almost like an Alice and Wonderland sort of thing,” Adam says. “I wanted as much color as possible.”

Childhood Joy

Artist: Marcus Fetch

Since Marcus Fetch had already completed a mural inspired by Ignite Properties owner Adam Thrower’s daughter, they decided to depict Adam’s son in their next project on the 186 Oxmoor building Adam’s company was renovating in West Homewood. Adam wanted it to be large, taking up two stories of the wall, and they also wanted it to represent West Homewood’s community and speak to all kids by capturing the beauty and freedom of childhood. They took pictures of Adam’s son Guy, then age 7, hanging upside down in the tree, and drew inspiration from Homewood’s colors for the red and blue stripes on his shirt. The bubbles around him are meant to be his imagination, and that’s what is making him smile.

 

Homewood Mural Hunt Checklist

Tag @homewoodlife in your posts with your #homewoodmuralhunt photos.

EDGEWOOD

Color TV Ad
1017 Oxmoor Road, facing Ruby Sunshine & Greenhouse parking lot

Blue Edgewood Mural
1018 Oxmoor Road, facing the Chevron station

WEST HOMEWOOD

Community Tree
168 Oxmoor Road on Big Color building

Community Mural: Coming Soon
710 Oak Grove Road, on the back of bathroom building facing open fields Patriot Park

Childhood Joy
186 Oxmoor Road, on the left side of the 186 Oxmoor building

DOWNTOWN HOMEWOOD

Homewood is Always a Good Idea
2790 B M. Montgomery Street, on the left side of the Roman Brantley Antiques building

Farm Bowl + Juice Co. Colors
1920 29th Avenue South

Whimsical Girl
2811 Crescent Avenue, on the Ignite Creative building