Muralist Kevin Bate shares the story of how he began his career as an artist in Chattanooga.
For 15 years, Kevin Bate would pass through his graffiti-covered neighborhood in Highland Park, and he hated looking at it.
“If you are bombarded with the ugly, it wears you down,” Kevin said.
Every possible idea to spruce up his neighborhood that Kevin thought up either couldn’t work or didn’t gain traction, until Kevin landed on something special: murals. Murals added a fresh and unique aspect to a neighborhood’s buildings and raised their “empathetic value.”
“I’m a big believer in public art,” Kevin said. “Art changes the perception that you have of an area.”
Creating murals wasn’t always Kevin’s goal—in fact, art was something that he “stumbled into” in a high school art class to fill an elective slot. He did so well in that class that his family and teacher encouraged him to pursue art, leading him to study at Savannah College of Art and Design and University of Georgia. He didn’t care for the large size of Atlanta, so he relocated to Chattanooga.
Kevin took a break from painting for years, but that changed after he had a son and became a stay-at-home dad. He decided to find something to paint, but only found leftover supplies from previous projects, such as plywood, 1-inch brushes, and black and white paint from his shed. This led Kevin to creating his big, grayscale paintings, and he eventually hosted workshops and created murals around Chattanooga.
Some of the murals Kevin has worked on include Faces on Frazier, Fallen Five, MLK on MLK, and Robert on Champys. Kevin has also created murals in other southern cities, such as Huntsville, Dalton, and Cleveland.
One aspect of murals Kevin emphasizes is involving the community by asking for neighborhood volunteers, including kids.
“You can do way more to help a neighborhood than just cleanup,” Kevin said. “It’s good to give people a sense of ownership of the art pieces in their neighborhood.”
Kevin will also be working with the Pop-up Project, a local nonprofit creating productions related to dance. Kevin will be creating props for their shows and films.
Keep up with Kevin Bate and see more of his work on Instagram!