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Citadel cadets, community come together to paint Charleston Strong mural on Rutledge Avenue

By Caroline Balchunasccbalchunas@sbgtv.com

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a mural in downtown Charleston will leave people speechless. Volunteers started the process on Wednesday of building a Charleston Strong mural on Rutledge Avenue.

Thanks to some brushes, several gallons of paint, and the spirit of community that has brought Charleston together through tragedy and adversity, there is now another piece of art on display in a very prominent place.

Gallon by gallon, and stroke by stroke, it;s one more sign that Charleston is healing. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley described it as "a reminder of courage, strength, healing."

Doves, a symbol of peace and hope, were transformed into a symbol to honor the nine people killed during the shooting at Emanuel AME Church on June 17. What started as a T-shirt design and car sticker is now 12 feet high and nearly 300 feet long on a white brick wall on Rutledge Avenue in the Wagener Terrace neighborhood.

It's not a landmark for the city of Charleston, a brilliant idea says Riley.

"In this darkest hour of heartbreak, Charleston created one of its finest moments," he said.

For neighbors and parents alike, it's an opportunity to create new memories.

"This is somewhere we walk past almost every day. So, I wanted them to be able to walk by and say, 'There's the bird I painted,'" said Anna Bradley, one of the dozens of people who painted doves on the wall Wednesday.

State Rep. Wendell Gilliard said the image of the wall and the thought of many residents gathering to create the painting will stick with him forever.

For those who aren't artistic, the organizers created simple stencils that people could use to add their dove to the wall. Even Riley used the stencil.

"Oh yes, I've always been an artist. You know, elected officials, we try our hands at anything," Gilliard said, laughing.

Despite the stenciled pattern, each dove took on a life of its own. With several coats of paint in a few different colors, there was one powerful message.

For those who want to join in and add their own dove to the wall, painting continues on Friday morning from 9 a.m. until noon and again on Sunday from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.

The Citadel's art director Tiffany Silverman is the mind behind the project.

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