Through the years, I've had the honor of working with a lot of local artists and designers who contribute to their communities in big ways with their talent. And they usually share one thing in common - they are all VERY BUSY. As with any business, usually these are the people behind the scenes who are pushing hard, giving every ounce of their effort to their work both in the field and in the office.
I met Scott Allen at A Plus Signs and Creative through a signage project for a church we attended. He was the local "sign guy," so we wanted to be sure we supported him. He also happens to be an extremely talented artist that had been leaving his mark on the Fondren community for quite some time. One thing I noticed quickly while working with Scott was that he was very responsive to emails and never seemed too busy to talk to me. I follow him on Instagram and know he's super busy all the time, so I knew I was going to be taken care of if the business owner cared enough to make sure every job was done exactly right. Scott was actively involved in the project, and he's been my "go-to" guy for all of my signage needs ever since. He's installed logos for me when we rebranded Fuse.Cloud, and he even had a crew come to Laurel to help with some signage for Agape Church.
Scott was born and raised in South Jackson (Mississippi for those of you out of towners), and while he loved recreational activities like skateboarding and BMX, he also spent time indoors drawing, painting and playing music at an early age. After graduating high school, he studied graphic design at the University of Southern Mississippi, giving him the ability to enjoy his passion for art and channel it into a career.
When Scott returned to his home town of Jackson, he worked in nearly every creative medium to stay afloat – from graphic design to photography, murals and gallery art. He ultimately ended up working a sign shop, now called A Plus Signs and Creative. With vintage signs surrounding him since childhood (his father was a collector), Scott has always had an interest in the design, fabrication and art in a well-made sign. When the opportunity came up to take over as owner of the store in 2012, Scott took a risk that ultimately led to his success story. He’s now producing beautiful signs that are changing businesses and communities and upping the ante for sign manufacturers everywhere. He's good, y'all.
With the shop keeping him busy, it was hard for Scott to take time to reflect on his personal art. But, when I asked him about his favorite personal work, he said his favorite was one of the first murals that he did that barely still exists today. It was the wall of a skate park in Fondren owned by Ron Chane that now serves as the patio for popular Jackson bar, Fondren Public. Scott was young when he painted it and claims he had no idea what he was doing, so the work was just pure fun (usually our best work comes when we’re most vulnerable and unprepared, right?).
As for other artists, Scott had a life-changing experience at a wedding that turned him into a Walter Anderson fan. Anderson had painted the walls of the community center in Ocean Springs, and during the wedding ceremony, all Scott could do was stare at the walls. He says the art in that community center blew his mind, leaving him wanting to know everything about Anderson's story behind the mural. This event served as a turning point of inspiration for Scott's career.
Making an Impact with Public Art
If you’ve ever been to Fondren, you’ve seen how Scott’s work can impact a community. His murals and signs are everywhere you turn. One project in particular, Fondren Fro Yo, has transformed from a law firm to a fun, funky yogurt shop. Scott’s influence - from the overall branding and hand-painted signage to the interior and exterior décor - makes a yogurt shop one of the most unique I've ever seen. It’s the brightest spot in Fondren, and the branding and overall look and feel makes it a place you can’t forget.
Public Art in Small Towns
It’s no secret that small towns can experience seasons of drought. And we’re not talking water here. Population declines, big business takes over and small businesses suffer. But in the last 10-15 years, Scott has noticed a creative transformation of many small towns in the South. He believes that community leaders have realized that history, whether it be the blues, civil rights or even architecture, can be a powerful way to draw visitors into their towns. He says that one way to combat issues in struggling communities is through creative place making and culture building. Public art is one of the best ways to make a community unique. Water valley, Laurel and Fondren are all examples of small towns reinventing themselves and experiencing real success. This equates to economic growth, which is great for the entire town and Mississippi tourism as a whole.
I’d like to thank Scott for his time in sharing his story and continuing to promote positive stories about how art and place making can change places (and people) for the good.
Now, the challenge. What’s a space in your small town or community that could use a little love? Is there a place where, if given a little TLC, could turn into a spot for movie night, pop-up dinner spot or farmer’s market (see Laurel’s super successful Downtown Movie Night here)?
Now, go make it happen! Contact me, and I'll gladly help connect you to the resources that can help you do this in your small town.
All photos from this post were contributed by Scott Allen