COLUMBIA, Tenn. (WTVF) — It's a city known for things including the Mule Day celebration and the museum of a president. Now the public's being put to the test to see how they can visually represent the city of Columbia with a new flag.
"I think it should inhabit everything Columbia stands for," said resident Sophie Parrett.
"I definitely think that historic aspect of Columbia needs to be represented," added business owner Bonnie Esslinger. "Our courthouse is iconic. We've got history with the James K. Polk Home. Oh, we gotta have a mule. How are we gonna put all of this on a flag? This is a lot."
A new Columbia flag isn't replacing an old one. There's never been an official flag of the city.
"We want something that when you see it, it represents community," said Columbia Mayor Chaz Molder. "It represents unity, represents history and culture."
Molder explained this new contest for anyone to submit designs for the Columbia flag is high school senior Nathaniel Bliss's idea for his Eagle Scout project. The public will vote on the submissions.
Though the online community has been complimentary of Nathaniel's idea for the city flag contest, many local artists have shared concerns about a line on the city site about how the work will not be compensated. Those concerned say an artists' work used by the city should be valued enough to be compensated by the city.
Chair of the Columbia Arts Council Quantagus McFall and vice-chair Sarah Kennedy said, though professional artists can submit, the contest may be geared more toward everyday people. They also said the lack of compensation is due to the contest originating as an Eagle Scout project.
"We do have to abide by the guidelines of the Boy Scouts of America," said Kennedy. "Companies or individuals cannot be compensated for things that are not seen as a safety issue. If we offer compensation to an artist, it might disqualify this young man from his project being accepted to the BSA."
"A lot of our problem now is that we don't have enough people coming to our meetings to hear what's actually going on," added McFall.
Mayor Molder said the winning design will be on display at city hall and other city buildings. There are some rules for the flag designs. Applicants will be limited to only three colors with no lettering involved. The contest will be open until March 15 with the public votes soon to follow. The contest can be found here.