Public Art - The Word with Heather René Dunaway

Written by: Heather Dunaway
February 2023
Heather Dunaway pretending to mount a painting of a bicycle. Heather is a Caucasian woman with shoulder length brown hair. She is wearing sunglassese, a beige short sleved blouse and blue jeans.

Public Art – my world has been swimming in it since day one of working with the Greater Augusta Arts Council and what a brisk and refreshing swim it has been. There are times when, as the internal Marketing & Outreach Specialist, that I have to go take some photos of a new mural or sculpture for social media or the website. It’s a great feeling; seeing my city’s arts grow. Looking back to when I was first starting to come downtown in High School / College, the “murals” were really crumby tags with misspelled words and bad grammar or faded and chipping cyclists. The sculptures were tucked away off the beaten path. Now we have these amazing murals like the larger-than-life James Brown Mural and an entire trail of sculptures, all in highly visible and accessible locations.


I feel like my city is bursting with color now. The Arts Council, as a team, works pretty tirelessly to bring new artwork into the Augusta River Region, whether it’s applying for grants to redistribute to local artists, posting open calls and hosting public art meetings, finding and sharing resources, or hosting networking opportunities or local artists and supporters to meet one another. Since I’ve gone full time, I’ve undertaken a big project that has a lot to do with public art. It’s called Promenade & Paint, Augusta’s Public Art.


The Arts Council was invited to participate in a tourism project called Authentic Augusta put together by Destination Augusta. We’ve been working with a tourism specialist group to create new and exciting experiences to have in Augusta. The Arts Council, being the Public Art Agency through the City of Augusta, chose to feature public art. It just seemed fitting.

What happens in this experience you ask? Great question! We start off the tour in the Augusta Common with local tour guide and Augusta enthusiast, Michael Wolff. He owns Augusta Adventures, but you might know him better from his haunted tour through Downtown. If you like local history and spooky lore, these tours are perfect. Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes!

Michael will lead you on an art-venture from the Augusta Common, stopping to talk about the featured Augusta Sculpture Trail works there as well as some It All Flows sidewalk murals. He’ll lead you down Broad St. to 8th, making art stops along the way. You’ll get to learn what it takes to make great public art, why it’s important for a community and some amazing history about what has influenced the public art in our little-big-town.


It wouldn’t be an Augusta Arts Tour if we didn’t have any mention of James Brown, so of course we will be visiting by some key spots, like his sculpture and Art the Box mural.


It’s not a long walk from the Augusta Common as guests would make their way to Humanitree House on 8th St. Here, you’d learn a little about Humanitree’s roots, what cold-pressed juice is and pick a tasty bottle to refresh before you get your hands dirty. 

A Caucasian man with a yellow barrette, black and white striped shirt and bright blue painters apron standing in front of a popsicle sculpture, pointing up.

Artist and owner, Baruti Tucker, will be instructing your “class” on mural creation. You’ll get to know him as an artist and as a person as he tells you about his journey. Trust me, he is a great storyteller. Did you know he paints with his hands? All those amazing artworks he’s got hanging in his gallery or up around town, ALL WITH HIS FINGERS. Crazy. Blew my mind the first time I heard that. Still kind of blows my mind. 

Baruti Tucker, an African American Male wearing paint splattered jeans, tank top and scarf. His hair is dreaded and pulled back into a half-up-do. He is wearing glasses standing in Humanitree House, his juice bar and restaraunt. The walls are yellow and covered in local art.

After you’ve had your fill of juice, Baruti will walk you through how a mural is made and his inspiration for the current design. And guess what? You’ll get to paint a portion of this mural that will be installed right smack dab in the middle of Downtown. Your work, up for all to see. Don’t worry first time painters, Baruti is there to help you make it look just right. The finger painting is optional!


While your group is busy taking turns painting, you’ll be able to walk the gallery wall and admire all the local artworks that Baruti himself curates. Many of his own works hang in the space.


Promenade & Paint, along with several other organization’s tourism boosters, will launch in this Spring, but the Arts Council was chosen to host a soft launch for our experience on February 11th. There are limited spots available, but if you are quick, you can buy tickets here. But not to worry, they will be offered twice a month on the first Tuesday and following Saturday! We even do big group discounts (8 or more). There is a minimum of 8 per tour. If it’s not met, the tour gets cancelled or rescheduled.  This is to ensure we can pay our artist and tour guide for their time. So please, tell your friends and family! Invite them along with you.