By Johnny Jackson
When Atlanta resident, James Renfroe, opened his new Ellenwood business in March, he said he looked around the property and saw an opportunity in the brick-and-mortar retaining wall encasing the north perimeter of his parking lot.
"I didn't want the taggers to take it as an opportunity," said Renfroe, franchise owner of Express Oil Change & Service Center in Ellenwood. "I wanted to put something on there significant, other than having gang insignia. Most of all, I wanted it to be a part of the community."
This fall, Renfroe has called on area students to contribute to creating a mural along the 30-foot-long retaining wall that surrounds the parking lot.
He contacted various schools in northern Henry County to enlist the help of their art teachers in what will be a year-round community art project. Earlier this fall, the teachers, with the help of their students, collaborated in creating a piece of artwork that many of their students have already worked on.
Using paint donated by Home Depot in Ellenwood, the students filled in previously outlined images. The art work, divided into sections, will be a progression of the seasons - summer, spring, winter and fall. Students from at least four schools will work on creating the art depicting those things in nature that best depict the average summer, spring, winter and fall.
"I thought it was a way for me to be a part of the community and for the community to feel like they are a part of my business as well," Renfroe explained. "Plus, it gives the children the opportunity to see their work on display."
He invites elementary, middle and high schools in the Stockbridge area to participate in the mural creation, along with members of the community. Part of Renfroe's intention in inviting the different groups is to showcase the graduation of art from elementary school art to high school art.
Students contribute to the wall during their free time after school and on Saturdays.
"We are going to complete it," he added. "We will have the spring and summer portions complete, more than likely after the Christmas holidays."
Renfroe hopes to make the community project an annual event. He plans to repeat the process next year by white-washing the wall next fall to make way for a new and different mural.
"I have had customers everyday drive by wanting to see the mural - not to get their oil changed or cars checked - but they just wanted to see the mural," he continued. "The end goal is to show the children how business and the educational process can work hand-in-hand. They can see how their creativity can become a reality. It also gives them community pride as well."
The project is open to the public. Those interested in participating, can call the Express Oil Change & Service Center at (678) 814-4140. The business is located at 1775 Panola Road in Ellenwood.