TYLER — Artist Linda Davidson, with paint and a brush in hand, climbed up a 30-foot ladder to put the finishing touches on a giant U.S.-themed mural under Gentry Parkway Bridge in Tyler.
Davidson is part of a group of four friends and volunteers who set out to beautify the area under the bridge and raise funds to help curb homelessness in the city.
About two years ago, Davidson, Dr. Sasha Vukelja, Linda Rowe and Maggie Roth thought up the idea of painting the pillars under the bridge as well as a mural that would be inclusive to everyone.
The area under the bridge is a highly populated area where homeless people live and hang out.
“People who live here, this is their home, and we want their home to look good,” Vukelja said.
In March, they began taking donations from organizations in the area to paint the pillars under the bridge with various themes, including quotes, peacocks, Bible verses and colorful abstract shapes, among many others. Each pillar represents each organization.
They also started painting a mural consisting of a 40-foot-by-16-foot American flag panel and six other 28-foot-by-14-foot panels representing a different part of the United States.
From right to left, the mural depicts the Statue of Liberty and the skyline of New York City, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and the amber waves of grain referenced in the song, “America the Beautiful.”
Texas is represented with an oil derrick and a longhorn steer, followed by an American flag as the focal point, Mount Rushmore and the Golden Gate Bridge.
“It goes from sea to shining sea,” Davidson said.
The members of the group planned to finish the mural by the end of the year but have moved up its completion in preparation for a benefit concert featuring Lee Greenwood, known for his song “God Bless the USA.”
“I dreamed in the middle of the night that Lee Greenwood would perform in front of the mural,” Roth said.
Though the idea seemed impossible at first, the group called on their friend Susan Thomae-Morphew, executive director of the Cowan Center, to get in contact with the artist.
After explaining what the group of friends had done and that they wanted to raise funds to help the homeless population in the area, Greenwood agreed to perform at 1 p.m. Sept. 14 under the bridge to dedicate the mural and Tyler’s Pillars of Love.
“He said he was all in,” Thomae-Morphew said. “He said yes to it all.”
Greenwood agreed not only to perform but also to sign the American flag portion of the mural, too.
The concert is free, but donations are welcomed.
Vukelja said the group is hosting the concert with hopes of providing more resources for the homeless population in Tyler and to give them hope.
“We give them tokens like doughnuts and cookies and clothes, and that’s all good, but I think they need more. Someone who believes in them. Someone who knows that they can succeed. Someone who finds out what their needs are,” Vukelja said. “You check off those needs and then let them fly.”
“It’s just like the Diana Ross song, ‘Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)’; I think we are connected to all these people,” she said. “We are trying to give one another opportunity.”
To make a donation, go to gofundme.com/f/helptylershomeless- .