Hattiesburg Community Partners Gather to Unveil Improvements & Mural at Duncan Lake

Hattiesburg Community Partners Gather to Unveil Improvements & Mural at Duncan Lake

Hattiesburg, Mississippi – Today, several community partners joined Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker at Duncan Lake to unveil improvements made to the park area thanks to funding through the AARP Community Challenge Grant, additional partner funds and more than 450 hours of volunteer time.

In August, the City of Hattiesburg’s Community Arts Center (HCAC), the Hattiesburg Landmark Preservation, Inc. (HLP) and the Hattiesburg Downtown Association were the joint recipients of the grant totaling $11,400. Additional support was provided by the Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art (HAPA). Originally slated for a mural, restored seating, art installations and providing free arts programming – the project was expanded to also include working with more than 25 community organizations for conservation awareness efforts and signage. 

“We often say in the City of Hattiesburg, that the strength of our community is not in who sits in mayor’s office or on the City Council. But instead, our greatest strength is the passion, talent, diversity, work ethic and collaborative spirit of our people. This is especially evident on days like today,” said Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker. “Today, we celebrate the dynamic collision of Duncan Lake with another of our community’s growing strengths: public art. This synergy of effort – between park and the arts toward more creativity placemaking – was made possible by a strong foundation of community engagement and volunteerism.”

A highlight of the project includes a variety of art pieces and a 500-square-foot mural on the bathroom building, painted by local artist Gabby Smith. The mural depicts a colorful rendition of the fauna, flora and other key features in and around Duncan Lake. Smith was the first artist-in-residence at the Hattiesburg Community Arts Center and this is her first large-scale mural in Hattiesburg.  

“Hattiesburg has a distinctive advantage in placemaking because of the collaboration between public and private entities and the passion of community members who are excited about saying yes to the next idea, project or opportunity,” said Visit Hattiesburg Executive Director Marlo Dorsey. “People are noticing the things we are doing here in Hattiesburg, especially our public art. We’re delighted that the mural here today is number thirty-one in our collection, and it is helping solidify our path to being a city of 100 murals.”

All improvements were coordinated through the efforts of Emily Gallaspy, the director of the Community Arts Center, and it took place between August and December. Overall, there were five dedicated volunteer workdays with more than 150 volunteers. 

A list of all improvements include:

  • The pavilion and picnic tables were painted.
  • More than 200 steppingstones were painted and arranged, creating mosaics around the park.
  • A 500-square-foot mural was added to the restroom building, painted by Gabby Smith. Smith was the first artist-in-residence at the Hattiesburg Community Arts Center and this is her first large-scale mural in Hattiesburg.  
  • Drainage issues and potholes at the park were corrected.
  • Two ADA-accessible picnic tables were added under the pavilion.
  • Signage was added to deter feeding wildlife the wrong types of food.
  • Trees were trimmed, improving the visibility of the lake.
  • More than 20 bags of garbage and tires were removed from the lake and around the park.
  • Trash receptacles were painted bright colors to decrease the litter around the park.
  • The park is always open to the public, but now it is also a home for arts programming. 

“I’ve been visiting Duncan Lake Park for many years, and to see this project come to fruition has been exciting,” said Shawn Harris, president of Landmark Preservation, Inc., the nonprofit arm of the Downtown Hattiesburg Association. “We are on the cusp of greatness in Hattiesburg, and I’m really glad people are engaging with opportunities like this and are not taking their foot off the gas.”

A full list of partnering organizations and volunteer groups include:

  • AARP Mississippi
  • Hattiesburg Landmark Preservation, Inc.
  • City of Hattiesburg + the Hattiesburg Community Arts Center
  • Hattiesburg Alliance for Public Art/VisitHattiesburg
  • Downtown Hattiesburg
  • Piney Woods Conservation Group
  • Volunteer Southeast Mississippi
  • USA Dance
  • City of Hattiesburg Public Works and Parks + Recreation departments
  • USM – Women Empowerment Association
  • USM – Marine Conservation Club
  • Pine Belt Young Professionals
  • Oak Grove High School
  • Petal High School
  • Grand Bank for Savings
  • Hancock Whitney Bank
  • Boy Scouts Troop 90

The newly painted mural and all improvements can be seen from sun up to sun down at Duncan Lake Park, accessible from James Street. It features a pavilion with ADA-compliant picnic tables, a 17-acre lake and a newly paved walking trail.