Katherine Munson returned to her native Columbus from Memphis five years ago, using her skills as a graphic designer and muralist to draw attention to the city's charms. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
June 16, 2014 12:36:14 PM
If you've walked through downtown Columbus lately, chances are you've seen the artwork of Katherine Munson.
Last year, Munson was one of several who painted a mural at the Hitching Lot Farmer's Market. Last month, she helped design and paint a mural in Coggin's Alleyway off of Fifth Street South. This week, she's at it again.
Today, Munson will begin the two-week long process of painting a mural at Mayhew Tomato Farm. The tomato farm's barn is undergoing a face lift and owner M.C. Ellis called Munson and asked for her artistic touch.
"I was actually really honored," Munson said. "He called and said, 'You make it look good and pretty.'"
Since returning to Columbus in 2009, the 31-year-old has been going above and beyond to help make her hometown look "good and pretty" as well.
"It's already such an amazing place to live and raise your family and I really want to add to what Columbus already has going on," she said. "It has so many wonderful characters and events. People just really care here. I really just want to be a part of that and make the town more beautiful than it already is."
Those who know her best describe Munson as quick with a smile, energetic and enthusiastic.
A graphic designer by trade, Munson moved back to Columbus in 2009 after a brief stint in Memphis. Munson missed the sense of community Columbus offered and longed for home. With boyfriend Ryan in tow, the pair moved back to The Friendly City. They have since married and have a young daughter, Molly.
"I just didn't have a sense of community (in Memphis)," she said. "I was looking for community. It was hard to find. I decided to come back because I knew Columbus could provide that for me."
Since her arrival, Munson has been an intricate part of the framework that is downtown Columbus. She worked as a graphic designer at Main Street Columbus from 2010 to 2012 and has served on the Farmers' Market board for the past four years.
During her time at Main Street and on the Farmers' Market board, Munson reestablished old friendships and made new ones. Hearing Munson talk about the community of women she has surrounded herself with, it is evident that this special group of women are not only friends, they're family.
"Whenever I need anything, from advice to help, or a couple of eggs if I don't feel like going to the grocery store, they've been there," she said. "I truly feel like I've created an amazing circle of friends since moving back to Columbus. I feel like each is an expert in their field and I'm blessed to have each one of them as resources and friends."
From former Main Street Director Amber Brislin to local photographer Katie McDill, Munson's tight knit circle of women is part of what drives her passion to make Columbus a better place.
"The list goes on and on," she said. "I genuinely love --I mean I love -- all of these people. I love the passion of these people and for what they do and I want to be that, I want to have that passion. I respect them so much. I see it in them and I want to be a part of that."
When she left Main Street to spend more time with her family -- she and husband Ryan welcomed daughter Molly in 2011 -- Munson still felt very much attached to the Farmer's Market and downtown.
"I didn't have to be down there but I wanted to," she said. "I thought, 'How could I serve and what kind of capacity?'"
As a result, Munson opened The Juicebox, a stand that sells homemade juice at the Farmer's Market. Munson and her husband have been making their own juices for years and with a selection of apple, pineapple, orange, ginger, kale and carrots, the made-to-order juice is becoming quite popular at the market as well. Munson said there are possible plans for expansion but right now, she's spending most of her energy on raising her daughter.
Talking about her two-year-old, Munson's voice softens and you can hear her smile through the phone.
"It's hard not to be cliche when you talk about your daughter, but she's the light of my life," Munson said. "She's just stinking amazing. It's the best thing on the planet."
Speaking of husband Ryan, Munson quickly adds with a laugh, "Being a wife is pretty cool too, though. He's kind of amazing."
Being a wife and a mother has changed Munson's outlook on life, she said.
"There's just so much more purpose in everything I do," she said. "I care in doing a good job just that much more. If I do the dishes, I make sure I really do the dishes and I do that with them in mind. It really is cliche but everything I do, I do it for them."
Munson said she and Ryan are creating memories with Molly that involve the downtown community. The daughter of noted former Mississippi University for Women professor Larry Fenney, Munson grew up downtown. Now, she's providing the same kind of life for her daughter.
"I grew up on the W campus and there is a just a nice, beautiful slow pace to life," she said. "I walk around downtown and look at these backyards and imagine all the little lives that go in the beautiful setting that we have. I love being able to do that with my daughter because I got to do that with my dad."
As with everything she does, Munson's passion is evident. Whether it's her family, her friends, her community or her art, Munson radiates when she speaks about what she loves. With living downtown, all of Munson's passions are combined into one.
"We walk downtown all the time, then we wander over to Fred's or Fashion Barn and we get a drink or a scarf or something pretty. Then you see all these people from the past, they ask how your parents are. It's just so much fun and I love being here."
Looking at her life now compared to five years ago, Munson said she feels a sense of contentment she didn't know existed. For Munson, Columbus is very much wrapped up in that sense.
"This is definitely home," she said. "I'm very, very settled."
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
1. Bully's bloodlines STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY
2. Pilgrimage in black and white COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
5. LINK eyeing Oktibbeha sites for development STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY