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We’re spanning the state from east to west with the second mural in the campaign, located in Sharon, Tennessee, just 7 miles south of UT Martin and home to Robinson & Belew, Inc.
Founded in 1950, the family-run operation is the community’s largest business enterprise and ships corn, soybeans and wheat grown across the region to end-users around the world.
As the story goes, Bob Robinson established a small business near the railroad tracks in Sharon, Tennessee, during the first half of the 20th century. He initially sold strawberries and coal and used the railroad to ship sweet potato slips throughout the United States. In 1950, he purchased the Sharon Feed Mill with his partner, A.L. Belew, and Robinson & Belew Grain was born. Robinson’s son, Robert Dean “R.D.” Robinson, earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Tennessee at Martin in 1961 and came home to expand the business even further.
The Robinson family boasts three generations of UT Martin ties beginning with R.D. and including his sister, Betty Robinson Eddings (’72); his wife, Dianne Palmer Robinson (‘71); daughter, Linda Robinson Fowler (‘85), and her husband, Keith (’85); and two of the Fowler’s three children: Chris in 2012 and Rachel in 2015. R.D. and Dianne Robinson recently established the R.D. and Dianne Robinson Agriculture Scholarship for agriculture students attending UT Martin.
Keith Fowler currently serves as president of Robinson & Belew, Inc. and runs the day-to-day business operations.
“My father is a UT graduate in agriculture, and my mother worked at the UT Martin bookstore for 33 years, so UTM has always felt like home to me,” Fowler said. “UT Martin means a lot to me and my family, and it plays a vital role in our community. So, when (the University of Tennessee) asked (to paint the mural), I thought it was something we definitely wanted to be a part of to help promote UT and UT Martin.”
Stretching approximately 46 feet high by 66 feet wide, the mural is painted on one of the many grain bins and storage facilities on the impressive property.
The site is about 500 feet from US-45E with unobstructed visibility from the highway. Information compiled by the Tennessee Department of Transportation estimates annual average daily traffic counts total 5,385—thus, it’s possible the mural will be seen by as many as 1.9 million people a year.
Painting a 40-foot mural on a metal grain bin in 90-degree heat calls for a special type of artist.
Troy Freeman started his mural painting career while still in high school, painting mascots for his and area schools before advancing to sign painting work for local farmers and then founding his own business.
FreeSky Studios is a Springfield, Illinois, based professional mural and sign painting business providing commercial and residential clients with a professional source for quality, creative work. With more than 20 years of experience, Troy focuses on delivering quality service marked with exceptional talent and professionalism in every project.
From a 65-foot corn cob to 4-story Frank Lloyd Wright tribute mural, Troy has the experience and expertise to tackle any location we envision.