Work on a new mural in Manchester has begun.

The project will transform the gray surface of the large bridge trestle on the greenway into a colorful painting depicting bees.

The artist tasked with painting the mural is Matthew Willey.

Founder of The Good of the Hive, Willey is on a quest to paint 50,000 honey bees – the number necessary for a healthy hive – in murals around the world, aiming to inspire curiosity about the importance of pollinators and to celebrate the power of human connection.

The project will be completed through a Creative Placemaking Grant awarded by the Tennessee Arts Commission (TAC). Kristin Luna, her husband Scott van Velsor and the City of Manchester worked together to secure the grant.

“Scott found Matthew via Instagram more than a year ago, and we’ve been following his quest to paint 50,000 bees across America ever since,” Luna said. “It’s long been a goal of ours since founding DMA-events to have him come paint in Manchester given that our vision for community improvement, public art and sustainability aligns so perfectly with his, and we finally got the chance to collaborate with him through a Creative Placemaking Grant.”   

The Creative Placemaking supports organizations shaping the physical and social character of their neighborhood or town through arts and cultural activities. The grant aims to help communities enhance the distinctive local character of Tennessee places for positive economic and community outcomes.

“(Director of Parks and Recreation) Bonnie (Gamble) and I worked on the application last winter then submitted it in January,” Luna said. “We were told we were finalists in the spring and met with the TAC’s Creative Placemaking Grant board in Mount Pleasant in April for an interview, then found out in June that Manchester Parks and Recreation was awarded the grant to continue our art trail efforts on the Little Duck River Greenway.”

When the money was secured, the city approved Willey’s proposal.

“Luckily, Matt was able to get us a proposal very quickly and carve out a window of time to come to Manchester despite being booked 18 months out, and the Rec Commission voted to approve his idea at the July 11 meeting,” Luna said. “We’re grateful the Rec Commission understands the purpose of public art is to educate, inspire and make viewers dream big. They’ve been such a great commission to partner with in our efforts to expand access to public art as they allow the artist the ability to follow their own muse, which is so important.”

“For the greenway specifically, we’ve incorporated a nature theme – American eel, dragonfly and now bees – that suits the setting, as well as created some whimsy for the kids with the Looney Tunes baseball cartoons.”

The goal of this mural project goes beyond just decorating the bridge trestle and creating a beautiful painting.

“Much of Matt’s mission centers on education and awareness, and we’re still discussing what kind of activities we can plan for the children so they can learn about the importance of pollinators from him and also take advantage of having such a creative mind in our community,” Luna said.

Through his art, Willey inspires awareness about honey bees and the importance of human connection.

Honey bees within the hive act as one organism. The health of honey bees is based on the health of the hive, not the individual bee. Through painting a healthy hive of 50,000, Willey intends to inspire a movement of change toward balance between people and the natural world, according to www.thegoodofthehive.com.