For these artists, Mobile’s distinctive Temple has become a canvas

By Wednesday evening, mysterious and epic figures had formed on the vast front wall of Mobile’s Temple Downtown, part of a giant, ephemeral mural that will be complete for Friday night’s art walk and gone without a trace by Monday.

Inside, artists Michael Townsend and Leah Smith taught a hands-on introduction to tape art, a way to make murals with painter’s tape that can be easily peeled off after a day or two. It’s a style of public art that Townsend has been pursuing since 1995, traveling all over the country.

“We teach tape art all the time to all ages, all abilities,” Townsend told his audience as he and Smith gave a quick tutorial on techniques, before untying people on the inner walls of the Temple. “It’s a very, very, very forgiving and friendly resource, especially for the first-time user.”

The two artists also described the concepts behind the mural taking shape on the exterior walls. On the one hand, Townsend said, “We have two characters who have patterned clothes, and the patterns cause chaos in the other person. So they’re drawn as two people who are mystically incompatible with each other.”

Also Read :  Saudi Shoura Council speaker arrives in Turkiye on official visit

“The bird cages on his shirt are completely empty and open,” Smith said, giving one detail as an example. “And now there are birds, eagles, all in her hair.”

It only takes a glance at the Temple to see that tape art is a fascinating way to turn a seemingly intangible piece of the environment into a canvas, without doing permanent damage. But why here in Mobile, and why now?

The answer partly has to do with unfinished business. Townsend launched his public art career with an ambitious national tour in 1995, traveling 26,000 miles and hitting 40 states in six months. He came through Mobile, but his plans for the city were scuttled.

He and his partner at the time were able to do some tape art on the movie screen inside the Saenger Theater. Meanwhile, The Temple Downtown caught his eye. The landmark north of Cathedral Square is known for the sphinxes that stand guard out front, the most obvious feature of its Egyptian revival design. But its big, blank facade is what appealed to Thompson. He never let go of the idea of ​​returning to it.

Also Read :  The Finalmouse RGB LED is a glass keyboard with a PC inside

“Here we are 27 years later, the stars aligned for us to be here,” Townsend said. He had funding to do a mural somewhere in the country. Not every city was ready to offer a quick green light, he said, but after he called the Mobile Arts Council he was “inundated with permits.” (Not least among them was approval from Scott Gonzalez, owner of the Temple.)

Lucy Gafford, executive director of the Mobile Arts Council, said there was no grand plan that led to this mural appearing just in time for an art walk. But she always wanted to do something with the Temple, she said, so it was easy to say “yes” when Townsend called. Other than a small amount of money to provide the tape art class, Gafford said, the project was free to the city and the Arts Council.

“I just want to applaud your city,” Townsend said of the support.

Also Read :  Daniel Jones' Giants evolution encapsulated in gadget play

Among those trying their hand at tape art Wednesday was Christy LeGros, an art teacher at nearby Barton Academy. She said she hopes to have some of her students walk by to look at the work on the mural on Thursday or Friday. “At least one of my classes will see this,” she said.

Smith said she and Townsend created the main mural on site.

“We had no idea what we were going to draw when we drove here,” she said. “You just sit in front of the wall, the first day, we’re like, ‘What are we going to draw?’ This wall is much bigger than we thought.’ We didn’t have plans and we just keep drawing as we go. There are no plans, nothing is ever written down or sketched out.”

Gafford said plans call for the mural to be removed on Sunday.

Mobile’s monthly downtown art walk takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday, December 9. For updates, visit


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Articles

Back to top button