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When asked what the “Everywhere You Look, UT” mural coming to Pulaski means to them, the Carpenters agreed—the mural means hope and opportunity.
“The mural will bring hope of a brighter future to everyone who passes by,” said Courtney Carpenter Childers, whose parents own and operate Giles County Furniture, home of the 13th mural in the campaign.
The bright future she mentioned is one that includes a UT campus in Pulaski. That’s right, the UT System is expanding!
Pending all necessary approvals, Martin Methodist College will become UT Southern—the fourth undergraduate campus in the UT System and the first new campus to be added in 50 years, effective July 1, 2021.
The proposed acquisition of Martin Methodist by the UT System will transform the 150-year-old private college in Pulaski into the state’s only public four-year institution of higher education between Chattanooga and Memphis along Tennessee’s southern border.
“No more mini U-Hauls or four-car-family caravans on move-in weekend,” explained Childers, a first-generation college graduate who left home in 1997 to pursue degrees from Middle Tennessee State University and the University of Alabama before moving to Knoxville in 2006 to start her career in higher education. Today, she serves on the faculty in the UT Knoxville College of Communication and Information.
“Everyone who passes by the mural will know there’s hope of earning a UT degree right here in Pulaski,” she said.
For Childers’ mother, Connie Carpenter, the new mural offers hope of another type.
“UT Southern will bring tremendous growth to our community and region, creating opportunities and opening doors that I hope could allow my daughter and her family to return home,” she said.
The Carpenters are lifelong residents and staples in the Giles County business community.
Connie and her husband, Phil, grew up in Pulaski. Connie’s father owned and operated the grocery store, Davis & Eslick, on E Washington Street, which he purchased from Connie’s grandmother in 1976.
In 1967, Phil’s father opened the doors of Giles County Furniture, the community’s one-stop-shop for everything needed to furnish and supply a home—from appliances to furniture and flooring.
Ironically, Davis & Eslick and Giles County Furniture are located across the street from one another in downtown Pulaski – united by the street where the mural is painted.
Connie and Phil were childhood sweethearts, marrying at age 19. While Phil’s two younger siblings attended UT Knoxville, Connie and Phil worked alongside Phil’s parents six days a week to grow the furniture store while raising their two daughters.
Childers’ sister, Catherine Carpenter Baddour, also has UT connections. She enrolled at UT Knoxville in 1999, was a member of the UT Knoxville Dance Team, before transferring and graduating from the UT Health Science Center in Memphis in 2004 and returning to Pulaski to work as a dental hygienist.
“We were raised Vol fans,” said Childers, who recalls serving a UT-themed cake at her first slumber party when she was 10 years old.
Her hope for the 30-foot mural is that it inspires a new generation of UT fans far and wide.
“Lucky number 13,” she said. “Speaking of luck, I feel extremely blessed to be a faculty member at the University of Tennessee. I love my students and my job, and I love that I get to share in this experience with my parents, the family business, and our community.”
Carpenter echoed her daughter’s feelings of appreciation.
“It’s a privilege to be part of the 95 county-mural campaign and to showcase our support for an institution that’s given so much to our family,” she said.
As to whether the mural will serve as a bright orange beacon, bringing Childers and her family back home to Pulaski, we’ll have to wait and see!
Giles County Furniture
301 N 1st St
Pulaski, TN 38478
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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.
Free Sky Studios, Inc. 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.