The Muralist — Brookhaven native makes his mark downtown with a mural for a new venue
Don Jacobs is no stranger to Brookhaven. His roots are deep here. He graduated high school here nearly 48 years ago, he’s the father of the annual Brookstock music festival and he’s now made his mark on downtown. Quite literally.
He’s painting a 20-foot-long-by-10-foot-high mural on a stuccoed wall just off Cherokee Street in an alley.
But the journey to that alley has taken a little while. Just out of high school, Jacobs decided to visit Frankfurt, Germany, for the summer. Eight years later, he had completed his college degree in graphic design before he returned to the U.S.
For nine years he was the art director for WJTV in Jackson, painting as a side job. After leaving the television station, Jacobs worked painting faux finishes in homes in the Jackson area. During that time he became interested in the murals he saw in various homes and made it known that he was available to do that type of work, as well. Before long he had his first mural commission.
“For the first one it was sink or swim,” said Jacobs, “and it managed to swim.”
After a few years of creating murals, his work caught the eye of someone connected to the governor’s office and in 2005 Jacobs created a mural at the governor’s mansion that he called “the first important one.”
The governor’s mansion mural is in a conference room in the private sector of the home, on the walls all around the room, about 500 square feet total. It depicts different sections of the landscape of the state. The mural is monochromatic, black and white and aged in a sort of sepia-toned way, he said.
The next big mural he did was for Sam Haskell of Oxford, former executive vice president of the William Morris Talent Agency in Los Angeles. Haskell retired early to his home state.
While on a visit to the governor’s mansion with Miss America and Prince Edward, Haskell saw the mural and immediately phoned his wife to tell her he’d found the artist for the mural they wanted painted in the foyer of their home.
Jacobs also painted a mural in Natchez for Tate Taylor, director of the movie “The Help.” It is also in a monochromatic style.
Jacobs began expanding into more colors and a couple of years ago got interested in “old-timey” typography.
“They used to get really ornate with their lettering,” he said.
During Brookstock XVI, Brookhaven resident Holly Franklin began talking with Jacobs about murals and proposed an idea. Franklin and her husband, Tommy, own the Valvoline Instant Oil Change business on Hwy. 51, as well as others in the Jackson area. The Franklins had just purchased the Staffler Jewelers building on Cherokee Street to use as a central business office, and Holly had plans for the alley.
She wanted to get the alley cleaned up and made into a downtown venue for art shows and small concerts. She even had a name in mind — “Cherokee Alley.”
That conversation turned into a commission for Jacobs and he set to work designing a logo that has become a mural-in-progress of 200 square feet.
Jacobs estimates he will have spent about two weeks working on the actual painting of the Cherokee Alley mural by the time it’s finished. That does not include the time spent planning and drawing the original design and preparing to execute the mural.
“It usually takes twice as long as my time estimate, however,” Jacobs said, laughing.
Jacobs said he sometimes projects images onto the surface when he is transferring drawings to mural size, in order to keep everything proportioned correctly. Landscapes are typically free-handed.
For the Cherokee Alley mural, Jacobs drew a to-scale drawing of the wall in the alley with a grid over it. Using his computer, he enlarged and reduced the images of his design and the wall until he had the scale he wanted. Jacobs then transferred the image to projection paper, applied chalk to the back and attached it to the wall so he could trace the design onto the building.
Jacobs’ interests don’t stop at painting. He’s also a recognized musician.
The founding of Brookstock took place when Jacobs suggested getting his high school band back together to play for his class’ 30th reunion. Next year will see the festival’s 18th summer iteration. He created the popular Brookstock logo, as well.
“A group of us have put together a Christmas CD — ‘A Brookhaven Christmas,’” said Jacobs. “It will be available in a couple of weeks around town and advertised on the Brookstock page on Facebook.” The disc contains all original music from Jacobs and about 10 others.
Jacobs loves doing what he does but wishes more people wanted murals painted.
“I would love to paint a Brookhaven logo somewhere downtown,” he said.
Those who’ve had the opportunity to see Jacobs’ work and to have him complete a mural for them are glad for the experience. That’s why Franklin said she’s happy he has “come home” to work in Brookhaven.
“We’re blessed to have him,” she said.