HATTIESBURG ALLIANCE FOR PUBLIC ART REVEALS ‘SOAR AND SCORE’ MURAL AT SOUTHERN MISSOctober 17, 2022
By HASKEL BURNS – Hub City Spokes
Officials from the City of Hattiesburg continue their march on the goal to become “The City of 100 Murals,” with the Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art recently unveiling its newest piece of public art, “Soar and Score,” located at the Eagle Walk at the University of Southern Mississippi.
The mural, which was revealed during an October 14 news conference at the site, was completed by Hattiesburg native Aubri Sparkman. It features the letters “USM” in the forefront, 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 have been a big part of my life,” Sparkman said. “My mural, ‘Soar and Score,’ is a mix of gold, grey, and black-and-white paint, used to represent USM.
“This piece is meant to focus on the athletics of USM, but also the band and several iconic figures important to USM. This has been such a fantastic opportunity, and I’m so grateful that I got to be a part of this.”
“Soar and Score” is Hattiesburg’s 35th large-scale mural. With the addition of the new piece, Hattiesburg’s Public Art Trail now features more than 50 such works.
“We put the vision out for a hundred murals last summer, but to see entities and organizations take that story on themselves – like Southern Miss and IMG and the alumni association – we can also see it pass on to the next generation, so they can do their part of helping us reach that goal,” Mayor Toby Barker said. “There’s a lot of really neat things happening today, and we get to be part of it, and I’m so thankful for today.”
At 17 years old, Sparkman is officially the youngest artist to complete a large-scale mural in Hattiesburg. She was selected for the project after HAPA officials put out an open call for artists in September.
“We had more than 20 applications from around the Southeast, and she did a wonderful job in her theme, ‘Rising to the Top,’ and really showing her inspiration for Southern Miss,” said Marlo Dorsey, executive director of Visit Hattiesburg, which oversees HAPA. “One of the most refreshing things that we see through public art is activating public spaces, to really turn something that we might have not looked at or given a second glance, to really activating it into a really beautiful and public space.
“We know that in the state of Mississippi, many times, we lose a lot of our best and brightest, and here in Hattiesburg … we know that (everyone here) is actively doing the things that you can to help create an amazing sense of place for Hattiesburg for every generation to enjoy.”
“Soar and Score” is a collaborative 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 shout out to Mayor Toby Barker, who had this vision that Hattiesburg can be ‘The City of 100 Murals,’” said Joe Paul, interim president for Southern Miss. “We’re not quite halfway there yet, but we’re going to get there. That vision … exemplifies what I call ‘The Southern Miss Spirit, The Southern Miss Grit,’ which Toby is making ‘The Hattiesburg Grit.’
“And that is, we’re passionate about audacious goals – goals that others think we have no business even envisioning. One hundred murals in Hattiesburg – an audacious goal – but you add to that an uncommon persistence in resilience. We don’t stop at the first ‘no,’ we never give up, we never give in and we get stuff like this done, and we look for the next mountain to climb.”