Hot Springs mural celebrating ‘Black Broadway’ to be unveiled Saturday

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HOT SPRINGS NATIONAL PARK, Ark. (News release) – A mural celebrating the history of the vibrant African-American cultural and entertainment community along Malvern Avenue from the 1930s to the 1960s is nearing completion.

“The mural celebrates the history and culture of the Malvern Avenue region between Grand Avenue and Convention Boulevard which, during its heyday, was referred to by some as ‘Black Broadway,’” said Mary Zunick, cultural affairs director of Visit Hot Springs.

The mural, located at 350 Malvern Avenue, is on the side of the Habitat for Humanity Restore building and is the result of a partnership between Italian artist Pepe Gaka (Giuseppe Percivati), Anthony Tidwell of Cutwell 4 Kids, and numerous other young artists who have been hard at work on the project, Zunick said.

“They are creating an image that will not only be a beautiful piece of public art, but which also will serve as reminder for generations to come of the vibrant history and culture of Hot Springs,” she said. “The models for the figures depicted in the mural were members of the local community and musicians from the Hot Springs World Class High School Band. Several members of the band will gather at the mural with their instruments on Friday afternoon [May 17] at 1:30 to see the final work. The community is invited to a celebration of the mural’s completion on Saturday afternoon, May 18, at 2 p.m.”

During the 1930s through the early 1960s, the section of Malvern Avenue was home to a thriving and widely renowned variety of entertainment enterprises that saw world-famous African-American entertainers and others perform during visits to The Spa City. African-American-owned businesses, a large hotel and a bathhouse also thrived in the area.

Tidwell, who is the founder and Executive Director of Cutwell 4 Kids said, “Working with Giuseppe has been an incredible opportunity for me and the young artists from Cutwell 4 Kids. Giuseppe has painted murals all over the world, so we are so grateful to have had the chance to learn from someone with so much experience and look forward to being able to paint more murals in our community.”

Jean Lacefield, president of the Gateway Community Association, said, “We are extremely excited and thankful for Giuseppe’s partnership as this mural fits perfectly as a kickoff to the revitalization of the area. Concept for the mural was a community collaboration effort. What a beautiful piece!”

The mural is funded by grants from Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and Wells Fargo Foundation, in partnership with Hot Springs Area Cultural Alliance, Cutwell 4 Kids, and Gateway Community Association. Numerous other community partners including businesses and individuals lent support to make the mural possible, Zunick said.

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