Almost everyone has seen the T-shirt with the homemade University of Tennessee logo on it made by a little boy in Florida, almost everyone has been swept up in the support of the little boy’s fandom of UT, and almost everyone has seen a picture of his same design painted on The Rock on UT’s campus.
What a lot of people probably have not seen, however, is the face behind the mural on The Rock. Bearden alumna Natalie Campbell is the artist. Campbell graduated in 2017 and is now at UT studying to become a special education teacher.
Campbell had previously connected with UT alumna Payton Miller, who was known for being a mural artist for The Rock during her time at the school. When Miller came to town to paint The Rock for the football season opener, she and Campbell came together.
“I told her I loved her work and wanted to continue her tradition,” Campbell said. “The Saturday before I painted The Rock, she messaged me saying people were wanting to see the little boy’s shirt on The Rock, and that I should be the one to do it.”
As reported by WVLT News, a fourth-grader from Florida, wanting to represent UT at his school’s college colors day, made his own T-shirt. Wearing an orange T-shirt with a homemade UT logo pinned to the front, he was bullied for his shirt. His shirt and his story, however, grabbed the attention of the university after his teacher made a Facebook post about the incident.
The university proceeded to send the boy a package of UT items, and the VolShop later announced they were creating an official shirt with the boy’s design on it and that the proceeds would go to an anti-bullying campaign. UT also offered the boy a full ride to the university when it comes time for him to go to college. Shortly after this, Campbell stepped into the picture.
“So the next Sunday night, I headed out to get started,” Campbell said. “I had one of my friends, Annie Graham, help me paint the base coat orange. Then I had other friends come and keep me company through the rest of it.”
After only two hours of painting, the job was done. It did not take long for her mural to gain attention; pictures of her work seemed to be everywhere.
“I certainly was not expecting to get this attention at all,” Campbell said. “Painting it truly was not for my gain at all, but for him. It was such a cool experience to be a part of.” Campbell posted her work on Instagram, along with a description of how much the project meant to her.
“I am so thankful to have opportunities like this to give back to stories of light, goodness and love and celebrate them through creativity,” Campbell’s post said.
T-shirts with the little boy’s design on it can be purchased for preorder on the website for the VolShop.
- News Editor Olivia Hailey
Editor's Note: Originally published Sept. 27, 2019, this article is reprinted by permission of The Bark, student news site of Bearden High School. www.beardenbark.com