Mural painting finished Oct. 8 in Riddleton
A farm used by the Cothern family for more than a century now presents the University of Tennessee System’s 43rd mural in its Everywhere You Look, UT campaign.
Bill and Marian Cothern, the current owners of the Smith County barn, heard about the campaign from a friend.
“We didn’t really proactively reach out,” said Whit Cothern, one of Bill and Marian’s sons and a 1997 graduate of the UT Institute of Agriculture’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “It kind of fell in our lap a little bit, but once it did, we said, ‘Yeah, absolutely. We’d love to figure it out.’”
The Cothern barn is located on the side of a hill outside of the Riddleton town limits. In the ’60s, when the state constructed Tennessee Highway 25 adjacent to the farm, it turned the barn’s location into one with more than 4,000 passersby each day.
The new 48-foot-wide mural is painted on a barn that was built on the family farm during the ’50s, and it reflects the family’s strong ties to UT. In addition to their son Whit graduating from UT Knoxville, three of Bill and Marian’s grandchildren are currently enrolled as undergraduates at that campus. But the emotional ties to the university took root even before the Cothern family enrolled as students.
“UT has been a center of our life since even when I was a kid,” said Whit. “I was an active participant in 4-H growing up. We grew cattle, we showed cattle, showed pigs for a little while … we raised tobacco. We sort of did all those things and it all centered around the barn there.”
The Cothern family made special outings to UT Knoxville football games at least once every year. When they weren’t at the stadium, they listened to the radio broadcast, usually while in the barn.
“I have fond memories of listening on Saturdays to John Ward on the radio as we were doing things working in the barn in the fall,” said Whit.
Whit met his wife, Terri, who graduated from UTIA in 1996, while they both attended the UT College of Veterinary Medicine. As they are in the process of relocating to Atlanta, Whit is making use of his family’s barn to house his wife’s horses while they get settled.
Whit still feels a special connection to the memories made there and what the barn represents.
“UT and that barn are a big part of my life,” said Whit. “It will make one heck of a billboard.”