Restored PACE murals offer new life in downtown

Donations needed to refurbish Cate's Alley
Apr. 23, 2013 @ 10:07 AM

When Sue Hunter first asked Phil Christman to paint a mural in Thomasville, Bill Clinton was president.
That might explain why the little boy in front of the train depot needed a fresh coat. He revisited the painting eight years ago, but alas, the elements have taken a toll on the exterior of the building on Trade Street. He was back in town on Friday as a part of a process to restore the color of his 1993 painting across the street from the visitor's center.
"It was pretty faded out," Christman said. "The tracks and sidewalk and trees are fading, so I want to bring it back to life."
People Achieving Community Enhancement — PACE — brought back the local artist, whose work is featured throughout the city, to restore his painting and refurbish its downtown area. Former Thomasville council member, county commissioner and member of PACE, Hunter says she has enjoyed watching her friend capture aspects of the Chair City's history with his art.
His current project depicts the old Thomasville train depot, a train running through town and the since-departed Mock Hotel.
"The Mock Hotel was built when Thomasville was evolving into a town," Hunter said. "It was a huge structure. Men came down to hunt from the north. They brought their wives and children and stayed at the Mock Hotel. It was quite a place for visitors to come during their stay here. It burned and was never rebuilt.
"I love watching him paint. He puts his heart into it and is always willing to help us keep these things restored."
Christman said he wanted to be an artist since the time he was a child growing up at Mills Home. Laughing at his ambition now, he looks back on things and admits there are a few things he would have done a bit differently.
"I should have went to school," chuckled Christman. "But I survived. Nothing is wasted. I've tried not to waste my talent and I've tried not to waste time, mine or anyone else's.
"I left a regular, full-time job in 1985. My paintings were selling, and I thought 'Well, you never know until you jump in it with everything you've got.'"
With his leap of faith, Christman made his mark on Thomasville.
In addition to the Trade Street mural, Hunter says a decision must be made on whether or not to keep the children's mural in Cate's Alley, located between Salem Street and Commerce. She says the money must come from third party donations because PACE does not have the money required — Hunter estimates the cost at $6,000 — to upgrade the mural.
"We would like to restore what is already there, if people will step up and help and help with the cost," she said.
To donate money set aside for restoration or to express an opinion on what to do regarding the mural, call Hunter at 475-3235.

Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or