Tunnel mural painting underway on Tsa La Gi Trail

Photo: Todd Gill, Fayetteville Flyer

Painting of a new mural on Tsa La Gi Trail is underway in south Fayetteville.

The artwork, approved by the City Council last month, depicts the journey of the Cherokee people along the Trail of Tears.

City officials earlier this year asked area artists to submit proposals for the project, and ultimately chose Stacy Bates for her design, titled “Holding On and Letting Go: The Struggles and Strength of the Tsa La Gi.”

The multi-use trail was opened in 2014, and runs parallel to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. It is named in remembrance of the forced relocation route where a group of Cherokee in 1839 formed a detachment camp near what is currently the intersection of MLK and Stadium Drive.

A portion of the trail runs through a tunnel underneath the Arkansas Missouri Railroad rail line. City staff identified the exterior wing walls on the east side of the tunnel as an ideal place for a mural that they hoped would fulfill the requirements of a state appropriation the city received for improvements to Trail of Tears sites in Washington County.

It was later determined that the mural project did not qualify for the state grant, but city staff and members of the Fayetteville Arts Council – who juried the mural proposals – still wanted to continue with the $5,000 project.

Bates said the artwork is focused on the culture, traditions and strength of the Cherokee people.

The design includes a Cherokee’s hands grasping onto an eagle feather wand. Behind the wand is a detailed rivercane basket weaving pattern.

Bates said she chose the image because she felt it represents the Cherokee desperately holding onto their important traditions and strength while being forced away from their homeland.