Ginger Woechan followed her bliss and it led her into Mobile lore. The painter and teacher has shown around the region, but her vibrant mural on the exterior of Hayley’s Bar downtown holds a special place in her collection. It should, because the high-profile project unveiled in December 2019 was a big part of her 2020 Nappie Award for Best Local Painter.
“I made a lot of great connections and friendships. It makes me tear up just thinking about it because it was just such a wonderful experience through and through,” Woechan said.
Working near the intersection of Jackson and Dauphin streets meant she was in the heart of the downtown area at the time of year most comfortable for strolling. Except for a few times when the mercury really dipped — “the paint stayed tacky longer than I felt comfortable” — Woechan put in 15, 12-hour days to finish it.
She and her service dog, Zeppelin, came to know workers, patrons, cops and parking attendants while she immortalized various personalities through her brush. If they crossed her path, she made a friend.
“My favorite was David, a homeless guy who came by to see me most every single day and we would sit and talk. I haven’t been able to find him in about two months. That makes me really sad. I hope he’s OK,” Woechan said.
The only drawback was a difficult mechanical lift that she got stuck on once.
“It was the largest thing I’ve painted to date and every minute was enjoyable. It was my favorite thing I’ve ever done,” Woechan said.
She is in the process of finishing another large-scale work on the wall of the United Way building at Joachim and St. Francis. The tree she has designed will signify progress in the nonprofit’s 2020 Pledge Drive supporting health, education, financial stability and more. As money comes in, foliage and flowers will fill out the scene.
“It is hot. I get out there between 6 to 7 a.m. and work until noon when the sun starts hitting, and I can’t bear it anymore. That wall gets too hot and reflects off of it,” Woechan said.
Woechan has pursued art almost as far back as she can remember. She taught herself to paint around age 11, working on cardboard or whatever was handy.
“By the time I was 15, my mom told me I had to get a job or sell my art. I did my first art show at 15 in Ocean Springs [Mississippi]. Last year was my 20th year doing that show,” Woechan said.
She teaches classes at Lavretta Park for the Mobile Parks and Recreation department. On weekends, she and Zeppelin will head to New Orleans where she has a coveted spot selling art in Jackson Square.
“It’s not for everyone, especially when you work a 40-hour week then you have to paint on the side. It’s hard, but I love what I do,” Woechan said.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access. During the month of December, give (or get) a one year subscription with TWO months FREE.