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Tazewell, Now & Then

Community Mural in Tazewell, VA

The year-long process of creating this mural, 2018-2019, involved over 150 people and countless hours of creative thought and work. The project was originated and sponsored by Tazewell Today, a local initiative to revitalize the Tazewell Main Street community. Regional artist Ellen Elmes facilitated the first stage of the project by engaging selected students in Tazewell schools in weekly drawing sessions to provide imagery eventually incorporated into Ellen’s mural design.

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These students and their teachers are:


Tazewell Elementary School 5th Graders – Art Teacher, Kelvin Seabolt; Gifted Coordinator, Sheila Ingram

Ethan Craig, Melady Elswick, Paige Franke, Alayna Hankins, Peyton McBride, Isaac Scott Meade, Tyler Musick, Shakata Parks, Lacie Repass, Maddie Sargent, Addison Sparks, Isabella Waddell.


North Tazewell Elementary School 5th Graders – Art Teacher, Kelvin Seabolt; Gifted Coordinator, Sheila Ingram

Brandon Christian, Aiden Cornwall, Jillian Crisp, Brooklynn Dye, Nevaeh Edwards, Addie Kinder, Gage Stacy, Colin Swim, Kaitlyn Woodall


Tazewell Middle School 8th Graders – Art Teacher, Sarah Surber

Katlyn Kidd, Logan Looney, Talen Nunley, Maddie Pickett, Anna Smith, Zachary Stacy, Abbi Woods


Tazewell High School 11th and 12th Graders – Art Teacher, Sarah Surber

Sage Alley, Joe Ball, Paige Jewell, Gabriel Keene, Lindsey Layne


Tazewell County Career and Technical Center 11th and 12th Graders – Automotive Service Technology Teacher, James Parnell

Tony Bennfield, Darien Wallace



The second stage of the project, facilitated by Ellen and volunteers Shelley Lallande, Cormetia Sweetser, and Don Elmes, literally brought more people to the table. Over 150 community residents participated in “paint-in” sessions held daily in the former woodshop of Tazewell Middle School from May through early August of 2019. A “ghost image” of the overall mural design was printed on Pellon fabric rolls, which were divided into 24 individual sections and laid out on tables for participants to paint by numbers that were designated in every image and every shape of the design. Some painters worked individually; others participated in groups, including members of the Tazewell County Historical Society, Appalachian Artists, Tazewell Middle School faculty, and the TASK students of the Tazewell County Summer Enrichment Program; and many worked together as families – grandparents with their grandchildren, great-aunts with their nieces and nephews, and parents with their children.


Both real and imagined people, places, and things are portrayed in this mural to tell the story of Tazewell as an historic and contemporary community. Some of the “real” people included in the mural are: 

  • Hometown sportsmen, such as baseball superstar Billy Wagner, THS football legend John Rainey and current THS player Chancellor Harris, and popular Tazewell bull rider Michael Lane.

  • Those honored in loving remembrance in Tazewell hearts and minds – THS 2002 graduate and former Bluefield College student Heather Smith, TMS and THS basketball coach Bill Mitchell portrayed with three of his players: Robbie Smith, Steve “Woo” Rainey, and Lamont Dennis; and portrayed on “The Peak” (upper right corner) former THS student TJ Rasnick, and THS graduate and Tazewell lawyer Kelly Combs Necessary. Also portrayed on The Peak are Tazewell natives Timothy Boyd, Zach Buchman, and Curtis Aaron Ingram. 

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  • Six contemporary self-portraits of Tazewell teens, - Sage Alley, Joe Ball, Paige Jewell, Kaitlyn Kidd, Gabby Keene, and Lindsey Layne - matched with their soulmates from the past with a passion for the arts, band, fashion, tennis, volleyball, and motorcycling.

  • Other “real” people portrayed in the mural from the more distant past are: Katie MacDonald Johnson, John Wilson Pardue, Fred Rees Steel (with champion horse, Darvester,) Myrtle Jane Hoops Trayer, and Robert G. Warren. 

  • And those honored as community support people – such as local US military veterans, an NTES security officer, a local fire fighter, former police chief Jim Higginbotham, and church elder Jackie Cecil.


Ist column Tazewell fabric installation.
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The final stage of the project was the installation of the 24 painted fabric pieces on this Main Street wall. This was undertaken by Don, Ellen, and Chris Mitchell, a Tazewell Public Works employee, and his fellow workmen, under the direction of Donny Pruitt. Tazewell Today and artist Ellen Elmes extend a large “Thank you!” to all those who generously contributed their time, energy, and skills to make this project a lasting success!

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