‘A wonderful tribute’: Earthworks mural honors the Carters’ love story

Portrait of Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter made with mulch and stones on display in Atlanta’s Freedom Park
A portrait of Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter made from mulch, peat moss and stones sits on a hill in Freedom Park in Atlanta on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023.   (Ben Gray / Ben@BenGray.com)

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

A portrait of Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter made from mulch, peat moss and stones sits on a hill in Freedom Park in Atlanta on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2023.   (Ben Gray / Ben@BenGray.com)

From the ground, it looks like a haphazard scattering of stones, mulch and wood chips.

But if you view it from above, those natural elements combine to depict one of Georgia’s most famous and enduring love stories.

Artist Stan Herd recently completed a gigantic Earthworks portrait of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in Atlanta’s Freedom Park, depicting the former president and first lady smiling side-by-side. His team began constructing the compostable mural before Rosalynn Carter’s death Nov. 19, but the final work struck a chord with her family by portraying a loving marriage that can best be appreciated from the heavens.

“How cool is this? It’s amazing!” said Jason Carter, the grandson of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter. “This is such a wonderful tribute to my grandparents’ love.”

Several members of the Carter family visited the mural Wednesday, bracing a chilly and windy afternoon for a private viewing with the artist. Herd previously worked with the city on Earthworks tributes to the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis and poet Maya Angelou and to astronaut Stephanie Wilson, but he said he’s envisioned encapsulating the Carters’ marriage for more than a year.

Artist Stan Herd posed with a picture of Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter on top of an Earthworks portrait he made in Freedom Park on Nov. 22, 2023.

Credit: Zachary Hansen

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Credit: Zachary Hansen

Herd said it took months before he could get the necessary approvals to begin building his latest mural, which sits atop a hill in Freedom Park just east of Moreland Avenue and a few blocks away from the Carter Center. He said he never expected to have to show the Carter family his work during such a poignant time.

“For them to just take the time to come out here, I hoped they would appreciate this effort,” Herd said. “They brought me to tears.”

Herd, who lives in Kansas, has created artworks for 40 years and completed Earthworks projects in several U.S. states, Australia, Brazil, China and Cuba. The Carter mural took his three-person team roughly 10 days to complete. It should remain mostly unaltered for a few weeks before nature intervenes and it’s absorbed into the Earth.

Rosalynn Carter died at the age of 96 days after being placed in home hospice care in her ranch house in Plains alongside her husband, the 39th U.S. President and 76th Georgia governor. Her family recently released a statement thanking everyone who has passed along well wishes ahead of next week’s planned funeral services.

“Rosalynn Carter’s deep compassion for people everywhere and her untiring strength on their behalf touched lives around the world,” her family said. “We have heard from thousands of you since her passing. Thank you all for joining us in celebrating what a treasure she was, not only to us, but to all humanity.”

Jason Carter said his family has been trying to comfort the 99-year-old Jimmy Carter, who has been in home hospice care since February. On Wednesday, he said his grandfather had spent three days without Rosalynn Carter, adding that, “We don’t think he’s ever planned to have done that.”

But Jason Carter said the mural depicting one of the couple’s countless happy moments during their 77 years of marriage would have brought a smile to Rosalynn Carter’s face.

“There’s no doubt that if she is in fact looking down, this is what she would want to see,” he said.