High school art winner will help artist paint water tank murals

SPEDA launches second phase of U.S. 27 beautification project

In fact, the profile doesn’t get much higher in Somerset-Pulaski County than these structures — natural billboards visible to thousands of motorists traveling on U.S. 27 in both directions as well as boaters on Lake Cumberland.

The Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) is launching the second phase of a beautification project at the city’s water treatment plant and it begins with a contest: The winning student will spend the summer assisting Somerset artist Jordan Justice in painting murals on three water towers.

The project kicked off in summer 2021 when SPEDA partnered with the City of Somerset and Lake Cumberland Tourism to create a mural on the largest tank at the plant. That tank now displays a mural by Justice that highlights the community’s designations as the Capital of Lake Cumberland and the Houseboat Capital of the World. Justice will paint the remaining tanks there this summer.

“Jordan is an incredible artist who has used his talents to tell Somerset’s story across the community,” Girdler said. “I am so grateful to him for being willing to share the second phase of this project with a student, educating and encouraging them to pursue their passion for art. At SPEDA we believe that arts, entertainment and education are crucial components to economic development and we constantly seek ways to involve our youth in making our community a better place to live and work.”

In addition to the water tank murals, Justice has painted two murals on buildings in downtown Somerset, as well as outdoor murals in Elkhorn City and Pikeville. He partnered with Somerset artist Amanda Brooks to paint a large equine-themed mural outside Man O’War Harley Davidson in Lexington.

Justice said is excited to have an understudy join him on the project.

“The Capital of Lake Cumberland water tank mural is the largest project I’ve ever completed and I’m so proud of it,” Justice said. “I am grateful to SPEDA, the City of Somerset and Lake Cumberland Tourism for giving me the opportunity to share my work on such a large scale and I look forward to sharing this project and my passion for painting with a local student.”

The contest is open to all high school students in Somerset and Pulaski County. Students are asked to submit a painting or drawing that depicts a landmark, signature location, or item that represents Somerset-Pulaski County, or a painting or drawing that represents what Somerset-Pulaski County means to them. The entries can be created with any medium on any paper type but must be between 8-by-10 inches to 16-by-20 inches in size.

A panel of judges — including Justice and a representative from SPEDA, the City of Somerset, Lake Cumberland Tourism and the Pulaski County Public Library — will review and rank submissions. First place will receive a $250 cash prize in addition to the opportunity to work alongside Justice on the water tank murals. Second place will receive a $100 cash prize and third place a $50 cash prize. Should the first-place winner not be available to work on the water tanks, that opportunity will be extended to the second-place recipient. The winning pieces will be displayed in the community room at the Pulaski County Public Library.

Lake Cumberland Tourism Director Michelle Allen said this is a wonderful opportunity for a local student to get hands-on experience working with a skilled artist like Jordan Justice.

“It’s also an outstanding way to intertwine art with tourism and bring the two together to showcase our beautiful community,” Allen said.

Telling Somerset’s story has been the focus of the city’s promotional efforts, Somerset Tourist & Convention Center Director Leslie Ikerd said, and projects like these help foster a sense of pride in this effort among artists of all ages.

“Any project that highlights the diverse, creative and imaginative artists we have here in Somerset while inspiring the next generation of young people is a win for our community,” Ikerd said. “I am so grateful to Jordan and SPEDA for working collaboratively to make this happen.”

The deadline to submit entries is 4:30 p.m. Friday, March 11. Entries must be submitted in person at SPEDA’s office at the Somerset Energy Center, 306 E. Mt. Vernon St., Suite 316. Winners will be announced Friday, March 18.

Somerset Mayor Alan Keck said he looks forward to seeing the work that Justice and the contest winner complete together.

“Lighting up Somerset with music and the arts is about more than just supporting our existing talent base, it’s about educating a new generation of artists and musicians and creating a welcoming, encouraging environment where they can thrive,” Keck said. “I love the idea behind this contest and the way it supports generational development. I can’t wait to see what these two artists create together.”

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