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Muralist hopes first large-scale Franklin portrait spreads positivity

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Welcome to Franklin mural

Muralist Michael Cooper and his assistant, Tara King, in front of their "Welcome to Franklin" mural outside the Urgent Team clinic on Hillsboro Road.

Jazz music drifted through the air as Michael Cooper checked the weather radar on his phone late Friday morning.

“Trust me, I keep an eye on the weather,” he said. 

A beat later, “Oh crap!” Cooper exclaimed, noting the 50% chance of rain set to arrive in a few minutes.

Rain isn’t ideal painting weather for Cooper, a muralist of 30 years who has been commissioned to create the “Welcome to Franklin” mural outside the Urgent Team clinic on Hillsboro Road.

Cooper and his assistant, Tara King, have been working on the mural, which features local Franklin sites, for two months. It would have been completed earlier, but for a few complications, which included Cooper’s contracting and recovering from COVID-19.

In his absence, King, a singer-songwriter turned painter, filled in. 

“I decided that performance wasn’t really for me, so I started painting to represent my music,” King said. “Murals are always something I wanted to bring in as a way to promote my music. This is amazing to learn, and he’s a fantastic teacher.”

She found work with Cooper by answering an ad on Craigslist. 

Another roadblock in the mural’s completion was the style of the wall; deep mortar joints between bricks made the wall a “bear” to paint evenly.

Still, Cooper doesn’t mind. 

“I want this to really, really be a showcase,” he said.

Murals and More

After a 20-year career in office interior design, Cooper transitioned to painting murals with the support of his wife and business partner, Mickie. 

His first piece was a Calvin & Hobbes cartoon he painted on his apartment wall in Memphis.

Now, through his business Murals and More, Cooper has done several murals in the area and in many other states, from California to Virginia. He describes his artistic style using the French term trompe l'oeil, which means “to trick the eye.”

“It’s cool, as far as I’m concerned, if somebody has to look a couple of times before they figure out it’s painted,” he said. 

Cooper was approached by Urgent Team to create the mural through Williamson, Inc., Williamson County’s chamber of commerce.

He said the original idea was for a billboard-style painting. 

“I absolutely knew that wasn’t going to get approved,” he said. 

Cooper’s design for the final style looks like a postcard, with scenes from the Franklin Farmers Market, The Factory at Franklin, Lotz House and Carnton.

Though it’s not the first mural in Franklin, it is the first approved by the nascent Public Arts Commission and the largest in size and scope, given its proximity to a major corridor into the city. 

When the measure came before the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen in July, some aldermen questioned why town square and the Confederate statue monument were left out.

Cooper said it didn’t even occur to him to include the statue on the mural. 

“It wasn’t even a consideration,” he said.

Other than the aesthetic value, Cooper’s aim for the project is to make people smile. 

“To make it enjoyable, I want it to affect people in a positive way,” he said. “I want them to identify being in Franklin with this.”

“Watch this,” he added, before asking a woman walking into the clinic for her thoughts on the mural. 

 “Congrats, you did a great job,” she said. “I’m proud of it.”

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