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100-foot mural honors Oak Ridge innovation

From Manhattan Project to a future in space
Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 6:16 PM EDT
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OAK RIDGE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A new work of art is in the works for the area near Historic Jackson Square in Oak Ridge. ORNL Federal Credit Union has commissioned a 100-foot-wide mural that honors the area’s innovation, based on Manhattan Project photographs by Ed Wescott.

The mural artist is Oak Ridge resident Megan Lingerfelt.

“Had the opportunity to search through the archives of all of his photos and pick some that really felt like they were pushing the boundary of innovation,” said Lingerfelt. “One of the most iconic Ed Wescott photos at least in my eyes is the welding woman.”

This woman is featured prominently on the left side of the mural, facing an early surveyor involved in converting East Tennessee farmland into a gated, Secret City built on technology to win World War II.

“It was a blank canvas just begging for something to be done with it,” said Senior Vice President Tom Wright of ORNL Federal Credit Union.

You’ll see the mural when traveling along East Tennessee Avenue, on the west end of Jackson Square. It is located on the long, backside of a building operated by the credit union with the front facing Broadway. It is not a public branch, but is used for other office needs. Parts of the building are available for use by area nonprofits, as well.

Engineer Gilbert Chan stopped during his morning cycling ride to see the painting progress for himself.

“It has sort of a sense of Deja vu. I’ve seen it before, but it was probably in black and white, an old photograph,” said Chan.

In addition to featuring technological innovation from the 1940s through today, the mural features two students from the time Oak Ridge was the leader in desegregation of education.

Wright explained, “There were 85 students here that were the first in the South to desegregate and she captured that too in this piece.”

“So those two figures. The man and woman sitting at desks,” described Lingerfelt of two figures she had outlined but not yet painted on Friday morning.

The project has been a few weeks in the making so far. It will take a total of two to three months to complete the work, with a projected finishing time sometime before July.

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