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October 15, 2022

Hattiesburg city officials are continuing their march toward the goal of becoming the “City of 100 Murals,” with the Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art recently unveiling its newest piece of public art, “Soar and Score,” located on Eagle Walk on the University of South Mississippi.

The mural, which was unveiled during an Oct. 14 press conference at the site, was completed by Hattiesburg native Aubrey Sparkman. It features the letters “USM” in the foreground combined with images such as a football player and members of the university’s marching band.

“Growing up in Hattiesburg, the University of Southern Miss and this campus were a big part of my life,” Sparkman said. “My mural, ‘Soar and Score,’ is a mix of gold, gray and black and white paint used to represent USM.

“This piece is meant to focus on USM athletics, but also on the band and several iconic figures important to USM. It was such a fantastic opportunity and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.”

“Soar and Score” is Hattiesburg’s 35th major mural. With the addition of the new piece, the Hattiesburg Public Art Trail now includes more than 50 such works.

“We laid out the vision for a hundred murals last summer, but to see entities and organizations take on that story — like Southern Miss and IMG and the alumni association — we can also see it being passed down to the next generation so that they can do their part to help us achieve that goal,” said Mayor Toby Barker. “There are a lot of great things happening today and we got to be a part of them and I’m so grateful for today.”

At 17, Sparkman is officially the youngest artist to complete a large-scale mural in Hattiesburg. She was chosen for the project after HAPA officials put out an open call for artists in September.

“We had more than 20 entries from all over the Southeast and she did a great job on her theme of ‘Rising to the Top’ and really showed her inspiration for Southern Miss,” said Marlo Dorsey, executive director of Visit Hattiesburg, which leads HAPA. “One of the most refreshing things we see through public art is the activation of public spaces, to really turn something that we might not have looked at or given a second glance, to really activate it into a really beautiful and public space.

“We know that in the state of Mississippi a lot of times we lose a lot of our best and brightest, and here in Hattiesburg … we know that (everyone here) is actively doing the things you can to create an incredible sense of a place for Hattiesburg to be enjoyed by every generation.”

Soar and Score is a joint project with Learfield, the University of Southern Mississippi, Bok Homa Casino, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Southern Miss Athletics, Sherwin-Williams and the Southern Miss Alumni Association. Sherwin-Williams donated the paint for the project.

“I want to give a shout out to Mayor Toby Barker, who had this vision that Hattiesburg could be the ‘City of 100 Murals,’” said Joe Paul, Southern Miss interim president. “We’re not half way there yet, but we’re going to get there.” This look … exemplifies what I call “Southern Miss Spirit, Southern Miss Courage,” which Toby makes “The Hattiesburg Grit.”

“And it’s that we’re passionate about audacious goals—goals that others think we have no business even imagining.” One hundred murals in Hattiesburg—an audacious goal—but you add to that an unusual persistence in resilience. We don’t stop at the first no, we never give up, we never give up, and we do things like these, and we’re looking for the next mountain to climb.”