On Tuesday, August 29, 2017, the Duluth Historical Society unveiled Duluth artist, Ann Parsons Odum’s, two, 4x5 foot murals depicting Duluth streetscapes from the 1930’s and late 1940’s. Duluth is home to Odum and home is where her heart and art is.
The artwork, painted with acrylics, is on permanent display at the Southeastern Railway Museum’s Duluth Depot, located at 3595 Buford Highway, Duluth, Georgia, 30096.
“I was honored when asked to do these large paintings of Old Duluth for the Southeastern Railway Museum. I have always, even as a child, been fascinated with the train passing through Duluth - loved to hear the whistle and roar of the engine in the middle of the night. Our family had a general store, Parsons (which is featured in one of the paintings). The train stopped often at the Duluth Depot and a fellow would bring a wheelbarrow of merchandise into our store.
Years ago, I worked on a mural in the Southeastern Railway Museum that is still on display there. When the ladies of the Duluth Historical Society - Judy Wilson, Nancy Sturgis, and Candace Morgan, asked me to do two, 4x5 foot paintings of Old Duluth. I was thrilled and ready to start. After all, I am eighty-five years old!”
Guests, attending the unveiling and dedication, remarked how beloved Ann is in the Duluth community. “I’m not alone in loving Ann. She has encouraged and touched the creative spirits of many - including my mother - who have been drawn to her and enchanted by her passion for art. Ann makes living and creating, fun! I credit her as a creative spark that has ignited Duluth’s passion for the arts. I have a front row seat in her fan club,” said niece and artist, Kathy Fincher.
Odum’s murals required creativity and research. “The tags on the cars were fun to do. I decided to put our old party-line phone number on one license plate and my birthday on another. After conducting some research, I found that in the early 1940’s, the tags said ‘Georgia’ and in the late 40’s the license plates changed to read, ‘Peach State’. I also had to research the Coca-Cola signs which were often found painted on the bricks of businesses.”
During the ceremony, Odum expressed her appreciation to the Duluth Historical Society and added, “I also want to thank Judy, Nancy, and Candace as well as Bill and Glenda Chrissy of Gwinnett Gallery. Bill varnished the paintings and put on the wires to hang them. Thank you, Bill!”
Following the dedication, guests walked from the depot to the Southeastern Railway Museum, located next door, where Odum took a moment to sign the existing mural she had designed of the Duluth Depot. Daughter, Sharon Parris, assisted her mother to make the perfect “Duluth-purple” hand print located above her signature. Parris glowed with pride and remarked, “With all the exciting things happening in Downtown Duluth, I am proud of Mom for capturing Old Duluth in an extensive collection of over ninety paintings. She has left such a great legacy for generations to come. I am even more proud of her as a mom and grandmamma, especially of the extra love she gives to her special-needs grandchildren.”
The evening festivities concluded with Odum receiving the Impact Award for her contributions to the Duluth community.
How did Odum’s discover her artistic passion?
Odum began her art career late in life. While the mother-of-four worked full-time in her family-owned department stores, Parsons, she decided to take the “Famous Artist” correspondence course. Following that class, she studied with a variety of teachers in oils and acrylics. However, it wasn’t until 1984 that Odum discovered her true medium – pastels. She worked with Phillip Lekki, an internationally known pastellist, for several years and has taken workshops from famous artists to include, Alan Flattmann, Ray Pierotti, and Albert Handell.
Odum is a juried Member of Excellence in the South East Pastel Society and has won numerous awards in their international shows. Her work has been featured in calendars, appeared on the covers of the Duluth Fall Festival Tabloid for many years, and voted “Best Artist” in Gwinnett. Odum joked and said, “I am really famous for about one square mile!” She is also a member of the Kudzu Art Zone and was thrilled to win second place in their first art show.
In her early years as a painter, Odum concentrated on historic paintings of Duluth and the surrounding area. She has truly saved, on canvas, a little country town that is now considered a metropolitan suburb of Atlanta and her paintings captured her adoration for her beloved community. She added, “I painted around Duluth because I loved it. Little did I know that most of the things I painted would be gone so soon?”
Since retirement, Odum has designed murals for Duluth First Methodist Church and Gwinnett Tech. Her favorite piece is a scene of Old Duluth painted on the brick wall of the former family department store. Currently, she is branching out into impressionistic and multimedia work. Odum looks ahead, saying, “I am so thrilled about my future as an artist.”