Street art strengthens MSU-Starkville bonds

Contact: Carl Smith

University Drive Corridor Connections
Volunteers paint a large cowbell-themed mural on University Drive Friday [July 22] as part of the University Drive Corridor Connections project. (Photo by Grace Cockrell)

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State and Starkville volunteers are hopeful new street art along University Drive will give a newfound sense of place and increase pedestrian safety for a vital physical link between city and campus.

University Drive Corridor Connections
Volunteers complete a cowbell-themed mural on University Drive Friday [July 22] near the MSU campus. (Photo by Grace Cockrell)

Volunteers spent Friday [July 22] painting a large cowbell-themed mural in the center of University Drive near its intersection with Camp Street—an area in the Cotton District close to MSU’s campus—and adding similar motifs to nearby crosswalks as part of the University Drive Corridor Connections project. Similar murals and crosswalk art will be painted at University Drive’s intersections with Fellowship and North Nash streets this weekend after those efforts were delayed due to overnight rains.

“The key idea behind this project is to strengthen the corridor between campus and the city of Starkville. By creating murals, we are physically connecting the two entities and creating nodes of creativity along the way,” said Leah Kemp, director of the MSU Fred Carl Jr. Small Town Center. “The art not only helps to create safer traffic patterns for pedestrians and cyclists, but it also strengthens the identity of both the city and the university. I think it will help our community gain more pride in who we are and what great progress Starkville is making.” 

Funding for the University Drive Corridor Connections project was provided by a $25,000 grant from the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Asphalt Art Initiative secured by the MSU center on behalf of the City of Starkville in 2021 and additional center-led fundraising efforts.

Once awarded, the center utilized social media to seek input from residents on potential mural designs.

“The local community has been overwhelmingly positive about this project. It overwhelmingly wanted cowbells, and that was perfect because of how that imagery strengthens our ties,” Kemp said. “We received a lot of great feedback, and the community has been willing to pitch in.”

Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill, who spent a portion of Friday painting the street, commended Kemp and the center for their work to transform University Drive.

“This effort reflects our unmatched working relationships with our MSU partners on so many levels,” Spruill said. “Adding art to the city has been a feature I’ve stressed, and having art that adds a safety component for our residents and student population provides the best of both worlds.”

A research center housed in the College of Architecture, Art and Design, the Fred Carl Jr. Small Town Center provides solutions to problems faced by communities across the nation through planning and design services. Read more about the center at and follow it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @smalltowncenter.

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