Kristy Oakley has painted her magic in Mt. Juliet. To say her fingerprints – brush strokes – crisscross Wilson County is a mammoth understatement.
Though just 5’2” tall, she sure paints big. Her broad strokes are enormous, but she manages to get in exquisite detail.
A well-known muralist, with signature murals in Donelson, Nashville, the YMCA, and some other places, Kristy, 49, took her large strokes to Mt. Juliet last June on Jennifer Osborne’s office building near City Hall.
You can’t miss the enormous letters which sprawl across the facade and spell out MT. JULIET. The letters are filled in with images all things Mt. Juliet.
Osborne saw Oakley’s mural in Donelson near Party Fowl and knew she had to find Oakley and ask her to pretty up her office exterior for passersby.
“I really love Mt. Juliet and wanted to showcase our building and let people know where we are,” Osborne said. “People come by all the time and ask about the mural and many have taken all kinds of pictures next to it. Kristy did an awesome job.”
As far as what’s tucked in the ginormous letters? “Jennifer left it up to me, pretty much, what should go on the mural,” said Oakley. “She was only adamant about one thing: Charlie Daniels must appear in it somewhere. Well, I am not a portrait artist, but I had to fulfill her request! My designs are typically very whimsical.”
So, she tucked a little fiddle-playing Charlie Daniels into the gazebo in the park that is named after him.
Mt. Juliet High School is also represented, as well as Mt. Juliet Christian Academy. Long Hunter State Park was also included in the design because of its beauty and recreational importance. Mt. Juliet Police and Fire Department of Mt. Juliet logos also grace the interior of the large letters.
“I included these because of the awesome presence and the great influence these men and women in uniform seem to have on the people of this town,” Oakley said. “Cedar Creek Marina was a must for me because my friends and I love to go there. I hope the people of Mt Juliet enjoy the mural. It was a really fun one to create.”
JOURNEY TO SHOWCASE MT. JULIET MURAL
This motorcycle-riding lady has been painting since she was big enough to hold a paintbrush.
“When I was 5 and in kindergarten, my parents put an addition on to our house and gave me the left-over wallboard,” she said. Those ragged white pieces of board were this young artist’s canvas.
“I used a cheap little children’s paint set and was in love,” she recalled.
Kristy has parlayed that latent talent into a major, full time career as a muralist and house painter (walls and murals inside).
“You got to make money in between the fun stuff,” she said of interim interior house painting.
Oakley went to cosmetology school and “did hair” for years after a not so great experience in college. However, one day someone at her church asked her to paint a mural in the children’s wing; a full hallway wall.
“I painted Noah’s Ark, and, it was probably pretty terrible,” she said with a laugh.
This was 24 years ago. But, she enjoyed it and the church thought it was fab. Kristy needed a portfolio if she wanted to launch a muralist career, so while she “did hair” she asked her clients and friends if she could paint a mural in their home, for free. Her break-through mural was when the Donelson YMCA commissioned her to paint a huge mural in their swim pool area.
“It was an ‘Under the Ocean’ theme,” she remembered. “It was a big deal.”
And, it was big, the length of an Olympic size swimming pool. “I think it still might be there,” she said.
And, so, a career was born and it’s been a fun journey. Kristy did go back to college and got a degree in interior design, so she loves to also paint houses and sometimes do some fancy painting on the job.
A recent project in Mt. Juliet was for City Manager Kenneth Martin. He said he was given an old piano. He contacted Oakley and asked if she was paint it as an homage to Mt. Juliet.
“I think it’s wonderful to take something discarded, and ready to throw away and make it beautiful,” he said. “We are going to find the perfect place in Mt. Juliet to showcase. If it just makes one person smile, and kids can bang on it.”
Oakley painted the piano with whimsical images of guitars, stars, stripes lake images and more. Martin has another one, and plans to find two more and will place them throughout Mt. Juliet at some point.
“I’ve painted countless murals in Wilson County residences as well,” said Oakley.
“One Wilson County home has five murals in one house,” she noted. “Four of which are Disney themed, and the mom says she’s still got more ideas for me!”
Oakley said she loves knowing her artwork makes a difference when she makes a child’s room feel like their personal space,” she said. “I enjoy, after I’ve painted an exterior public mural, seeing people post their photoshoots or selfies in front of it on social media.”
One young man who played football for Mt. Juliet High School had his senior pictures made with the Mt. Juliet mural in the background.
In other words, Oakley makes blank walls talk.