BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — An artist, a business, and downtown Birmingham.
Fifteen years ago, they all had specific needs. But they worked together to meet them and created something good for the entire city.
As you drive around downtown Birmingham this holiday season, you’ll see Christmas decorations everywhere.
Painted on the windows of downtown restaurants.
I look forward to it.
And if you’re lucky, you might just see the man who paints them.
Java Lewis, known as “Mr. Painter Man,” said, “I enjoy doing this here. It makes people smile.”
Fifteen years ago he started decorating restaurant windows, and it’s become something that people around the city now look forward to.
Shannon Gober, the owner of John’s City Diner, explained, “It makes such a festive atmosphere for downtown, and I think people really really enjoy it, and especially the kids, really, really enjoy coming down here and seeing it.”
Gober dreamed of bringing people back downtown, especially during Christmas time, as they used to years ago.
Everybody came downtown, and everybody came to see the lights. So one day, when Gober saw some of Lewis’ artwork inside another bar, he came up with an idea.
Gober said, “So we decided what can we do to kind of spruce things up. So we got him to come in to paint the windows.”
Pretty soon, other restaurants were interested.
And now, 15 years later, Lewis paints about 20 sets of windows each year.
And once again, downtown is thriving.
“It really was kind of a beginning, if you will, of people coming back into downtown. It gave people a reason to come back to downtown,” Gober explained.
Lewis’ paintings played a role in downtown’s renaissance and his own.
Not long before he started the paintings, he was homeless.
“I was sleeping out on the street at the time,” Lewis explained.
And the opportunity to paint windows helped him earn some money.
“This helped me a whole lot,” Lewis said.
Painting helped get Lewis to get back on his feet, and helped Birmingham thrive. An idea that brought life to the city, and brings joy to those in it.
“It’s one of those times that people come together most. So I’m happy to be able to contribute to that through my art,” Lewis said.
Java Lewis now has an art studio. He teaches kids about art and even organizes an annual art contest.
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