Madison Myers is leaving her mark on Chattanooga, both figuratively and literally.
Ms. Myers is a recent graduate of UTC’s Gary W. Rollins College of Business, where she majored in marketing. Perhaps one day soon, she’ll be known for that.
For now, it’s her side gig that’s garnering plenty of attention.
For a second straight year, Ms. Myers was selected by EPB to work on a community mural project at its East 10th Street substation. This year’s mural theme, “Voices of MLK,” highlights the history and significance of downtown Chattanooga’s MLK Boulevard area, and Ms. Myers was one of 12 local artists chosen for the project.
Sandy Bell, a Chattanooga icon known as “The Flower Man,” served as the inspiration for Ms. Myers’ latest work.
“He was a very upbeat and generous man,” Ms. Myers said of Mr. Bell, who passed away in 2019. “He would ride around downtown Chattanooga on his bike and hand out flowers to people in restaurants and bars and on the streets and he didn’t ask for anything in return. He just simply wanted to have a conversation with people and put a smile on their faces.”
Ms. Myers said she wasn’t planning to apply for the second year of the EPB mural project because she didn’t know if she could, but she had been toying with the idea of doing a “Sandy The Flower Man” mural.
“Back in September 2021, I made a sketch and thought, ‘I’ll just put it out there. If I ever got another mural gig in Chattanooga, this might be a good idea for it,” she said.
“I posted it on my Instagram and through the power of social media, it reached Sandy Bell’s nieces. They reacted to it positively, which was really cool.”
From painting nails to painting murals
Ms. Myers, a native of Mount Juliet, Tn., said her creative side traces back to her middle school days when her friends started going to the nail salon to get their nails done.
"My mom was like, ‘No, we not taking you to go do that,’ so I started painting my nails with these crazy designs—really detailed fruit, flowers and all sorts of things,” Ms. Myers said. “So it really started small.”
Feeding her creative side took flight during her senior year in high school. After her parents brought her a sketchbook from an overseas trip, she took an Art 1 class as an elective required for graduation, “and my art teacher there was like, ‘We need to bump you up to AP Art.’ That kind of took me in another direction,” she said.
That direction led to painting murals.
How it all started
Ms. Myers was featured as part of a 2020 Mocs of UTC series. The marketing major landed the role of sprucing up Davenport Hall, the temporary home of the Gary W. Rollins College of Business, during Fletcher Hall renovations.
During the 2019-2020 academic year, renovations to the top two floors of Fletcher Hall, home of the Gary W. Rollins College of Business, caused the relocation of several departments—including the Office of the Dean—to Davenport Hall.
To give the temporary space a personal touch, Dean Robert Dooley wanted to do something to ensure that it was apparent that Davenport was the home of the College of Business.
“We talked about a mural project,” recalled Katrina Craven, director of marketing and communications for the Rollins College of Business, “and somebody said, ‘You should talk to Madison Myers. She’s a marketing student and she’s also an artist.’”
“The really cool thing about it is that it was just kind of serendipitous and it just kind of came to me,” Ms. Myers said. “From there, the dean reached out to me. We jotted down some ideas and I got picked to do it.”
From a business standpoint, Ms. Craven said it became a tremendous experiential learning opportunity for Ms. Myers.
“When we met with her, we talked to her about, ‘What we need from you are a budget, a timeline and a proposal,’” she said. “We were looking for an end product, but it was also a fun educational experience. Here are the things that you need to think about.
“One of the things that struck me when we worked with her is how she brought a creative vision. She understood that working on a commission piece, you work with your client to deliver that creative vision and incorporate all of the pieces they need—which is so important if you’re a marketer.”
Ultimately, the completion of the mural project was derailed when COVID-19 sent everyone home in March 2020. Since that time, those Davenport walls were painted over when the College of Business returned to Fletcher Hall.
But that project led to other on-campus opportunities for Ms. Myers—including a painting of Gary Rollins now in the possession of the donor whose name is adorned on the College. She also painted a series of murals on the UTC Outdoors program walls inside the Aquatic and Recreation Center.
It built a portfolio, leading to her being selected by EPB last year to participate in a community mural project along East 10th Street.
“Madison’s story is just a really good opportunity to show how on the creative side, you also have business applications,” Ms. Craven said.
“One of the coolest things about what we do in the College of Business and at UTC is we have these relationships with our students beyond what their major is and what they’re doing in the classroom. We engage in a way that shows them how the real world works.”
Creating a perfect balance
Ms. Myers acknowledged that she wavered between marketing and creative initiatives before recognizing the two could coexist.
“Last year, I wanted to possibly be a full-time muralist and just do a ton of art jobs,” she said, “but I kind of found that doing art job after art job and commission after commission kind of sucked the joy out of it for me. I remember thinking, ‘I can’t think creatively anymore because I’ve already used up all my creative capacity.’
“I want to have that balance between having my day job where I have a stable set of income and know exactly what I’m doing. Then I can have my creative projects and still do commissions and murals on the side.”
As she begins her post-UTC career as a logistics sales coordinator with Chattanooga’s Steam Logistics, she can reflect on her college experience with pride.
“I’ve been able to paint murals three out of the four years I’ve been here,” Ms. Myers said. “When I was working on the Davenport murals, they did a video of me, and in the video I’m like, ‘Oh, I would love to be able to paint a downtown mural one day in Chattanooga.’ Little did I know that I was going to be able to do it a year later.
“To be able to do it again my senior year at the very end of my college career, it just kind of feels very full circle.”
And in the process, she’s marketing herself.
“Yeah,” Ms. Myers said with a laugh. “It’s a great combo.”