There's no mistaking Tupelo's rich musical history on Main Street. Its rock 'n' roll roots are larger than life these days, thanks to a series of 30, 6-foot-tall, colorfully painted guitar sculptures lining the streets.
Thomas Street Elementary School art teacher Kit Stafford dreamed up the public art project, which was implemented with the help of the Downtown Tupelo Main Street Association and lots of young artists. Students from every public school in Tupelo participated in designing and painting the large steel guitars that now serve as lasting art in downtown Tupelo.
Visual art teachers helped inspire the students by bringing in prints and examples of artwork inspired by blues, jazz, rock and guitars. The first 15 guitars were unveiled at what would have been Elvis' 75th birthday in January 2010, beginning with the ceremonial first guitar in front of Tupelo Hardware. A popular stop for die-hard Elvis fans, the store is where Elvis bought his very first guitar at age 11.
A second series of 15 guitars were installed in 2011. Modeled after that first guitar, the sculptural pieces were designed by Stafford's husband, Russell Stafford. Most of the sculptures were installed along Main Street in locales such as the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau, Main Street Vintage Guitars and the Community Development Foundation.
Some guitar sculptures even tie in with their locations. For example, the sculpture in front of the Lyric Theatre is painted with a movie reel, and the Heartbreak Hotel-themed guitar found a home outside the Hilton Garden Inn. The project was made possible through a grant from the Elaine Dundy and Roy Turner Endowment for the Arts, which provides financial support to area charitable organizations.
Read about more musical attractions in Tupelo, MS.