Local artist paints mural on temporary front of DGI/Commercial Authority building

A visual “sore thumb” for the last couple of months in downtown Gadsden has been soothed for the holidays. 

Local artist Kris Catoe has painted a winter-themed mural on the front of the Downtown Gadsden Inc./Gadsden Commercial Development Authority headquarters at 635 Broad St. — which has been bare plywood since Sept. 10. 

Kris Catoe works Nov. 13, 2023, on a winter-themed mural on the temporary front of the Downtown Gadsden Inc./Gadsden Commercial Development Authority headquarters in downtown Gadsden. It had been bare plywood since Sept. 10, 2023, when a truck crashed into the building.

That’s when a driver, allegedly intoxicated, lost control of his truck and smashed into the building, pretty much taking the front off it. 

The building remains open for business and repairs are planned — the familiar glass block that’s been there since it housed Runt’s Diner will be replaced — but the fixes likely won’t happen until after Christmas. 

DGI Director Kay Moore said she mentioned the situation during a recent meeting with city officials at City Hall. 

“I mentioned that I had originally talked to Ray Wetzel (curator of the Gadsden Museum of Art) about putting a scene on the wood, but he has been extremely busy,” Moore said. “Mayor (Craig) Ford immediately suggested Kris Catoe, and Ray and I definitely agreed. I contacted Kris and he came out on Sunday (Nov. 12) and finished the work on Monday (Nov. 13).” 

Catoe, who owns Lockbox Hair Studio in Attalla, has produced multiple pieces of public art throughout the area. 

“Kay texted me and asked if I could come paint something for Christmas,” Catoe said Nov. 13 while working on the mural. “The glass block has been ordered, but they won’t get it until after Christmas and Kay said it’s just an eyesore. She said, ‘Can you help me,’ and I said, ‘Why not? I’d love to.’” 

The mural emphasizes fun activities like ice skating and snowball fighting — “a lovely winter scene” as Catoe described it. 

“I know how talented he is,” Moore said of Catoe, “so I told him to do whatever he felt needed to be done to make it festive, and he did just that.  I did ask for a sign to direct people to the back of the building that we are using as a temporary entrance, and he ‘built’ them right into the painting.

“It was so exciting to be able to call Kris, an extremely talented artist, and have him come so quickly and take care of it,” she said. “We are very lucky to have such talent in Gadsden. Art is so important to bring tourists to the area and I hope we will continue to support them.”

Ford said he and Moore “are always talking about how we can use our available resources to enhance the quality of life while conserving tax dollars, and this was one idea that came up.” 

The mayor said some might consider it “a small project,” but he believes it’s “the little things that make a huge difference in improving the look and feel of our city. Murals, lighting, pressure washing and trimming the landscaping are all small parts of our big vision to clean up Gadsden.” 

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