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Downtown Kingsport welcomes a new mural

Staff report • Feb 8, 2019 at 6:00 PM

KINGSPORT — A new flock of birds landed in town last week — painted birds, that is.

The “Silent Skies” mural was installed last Tuesday on the side of the State Theater at the corner of Market and Broad streets, where the “Humanae” mural once hung. The 24 by 50 foot vinyl-printed artwork features portraits of all 678 birds on the endangered species list.

The mural will hang in Kingsport for the next six months.


The “Silent Skies” mural project is a representation of an installation that opened in Vancouver, Canada, last August. That installation featured the original 678 portraits on 8 by 8 inch canvases, arranged in a 100-foot mural.

Artists for Conservation, a Canada-based nonprofit that promotes conservation through wildlife art, launched the collaborative project with an international call for artists.

Kingsport’s own Suzanne Barrett Justis is a Signature Member of Artists for Conservation, and “Silent Skies” features six of her portraits. The windows of her gallery, Suzanne Barrett Justis Fine Art, look out directly onto the wall where the mural will hang.

“It’s exciting for me as an artist,” Justis said, “but I hope it’s exciting for Kingsport to say, ‘Hey, we have this mural, and one of our own is on it.’ ”


The idea of printing the mural on vinyl was Justis’ idea, since she’s a longtime wildlife and conservation artist who originally studied animal science. Justis said she believed it was important to bring this mural to as many places and people as possible.

While the original installation has hung in Vancouver and Arizona and is set to travel to China, Justis is working hard to bring vinyl versions to cities and zoos across the country. The Kingsport Office of Cultural Arts worked with Justis to make the Model City the very first place to host the vinyl installation.

“This mural is bringing awareness to the 678 endangered species of birds,” Justis said. “It’s also letting international artists shine, and it has a call to action to learn more about each species.”


The mural invites people to visit www.artistsforconservation.org. where they can view each bird portrait online. Prints of each portrait are available for purchase, and the proceeds will benefit conservation education among youth, as well as bird conservation.