JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Four walls that make up a heavily trafficked I-26 underpass atop North Roan Street in Johnson City are now canvases for a new art project sponsored by the City of Johnson City.

An out-of-town artist is using our home as his inspiration for a set of four murals meant to showcase the beauty of East Tennessee.

The project kicked off just days ago and is set to be complete in three weeks.

“Every mural is different, every wall is different,” said Felipe Ortiz. The artist came to Johnson City from Boston under contract with city leaders to create his art.

“Even though it’s four walls, four murals, I do plan it as one piece of art,” said Ortiz.

Design concept provided by artist Felipe Ortiz:

With a mission of recreating the “flora and fauna” of our region, Ortiz draws inspiration close by.

“From especially Roan Mountain, and a lot of the Blue Ridge, Smoky Mountains and the nature there. Rhododendrons were one I wanted to highlight in this mural. There’s also other walls that represent outdoor sports like fishing, canoeing, mountain biking, hiking,” Ortiz said.

Johnson City hired Ortiz to do just that – reflect our region’s best.

“We were looking for an outdoor recreation theme and Felipe Ortiz’s art is entitled “Explosive Nature,'” said Cheyenne Kumbhare of the Public Works department. “His art really speaks to the theme we were going for and represents this area.”

For Kumbhare, it was a “long process” securing Ortiz out of a list of finalists to paint the murals and jumping through the necessary hurdles with the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

The goal? Leaders want Johnson City to stand out.

“It’s about beautifying, but then making the space more meaningful. It’s part of creative placemaking, making our town more attractive to residents and visitors,” Kumbhare said.

Three days in on a three-week project, Ortiz says his team is excited to finish the job and showcase their work.

“This is by far the biggest mural I’ve done. There are challenges, but luckily we’ve had a lot of support from the city and lane closures,” said Ortiz. “We always push through all the challenges. We get the job done.”

Rain will remain an obstacle, but Ortiz said they will hope for many sunny days ahead.

Kumbhare added that three more murals are in the works in Johnson City: at Kiwanis Park, Founder’s Park, and at the Legion Street pool.