By Cedric Shelton
On Saturday, July 23, residents of Albany and some surrounding areas gathered at Mount Zion Baptist Church to celebrate and bid farewell to life of a local artist and entrepreneur, Tim Shelton Jr. Mr. Shelton died on July 15 at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. He was 53.
From his humble beginnings working from his back porch on Old Moultrie Road to his success as an entrepreneur and owner of Tim’s Artistic Art, Mr. Shelton made an indelible mark on the city through his work as a painter, air-brush artist, wallpaper hanger, muralist, and entrepreneur.
It’s hard to drive a mile in Albany without seeing his work on a car, T-shirt, business sign, barbershop, restaurant or church. Congressman Sanford Bishop called him “an exceptional man” and former state Rep. John White said, “Mr. Shelton was an artistic visionary and unique in his view of art. His vision and talent will be sorely missed. His, joyful personality was always positive when you came into his presence.”
From his love of life and people to his winning personality and his ability to adapt and overcome financial difficulties with perseverance and determination, he epitomized the American ideal of entrepreneurship.
Born April 12, 1957 in Mitchell County to Tim Shelton Sr. and Annie Doris Moore, Mr. Shelton discovered his passion for art at a young age and a desire for painting murals while attending Pelham High School. His father often tells a story of his son as a child, who while on a hunting trip put down his rifle to draw a sketch of a nearby deer.
By the early 1980s, he had moved to the city of Albany and married (ret. Staff Sgt.) Gilda Shelton of Camilla and the couple welcomed their first two children, Cedrick and Tim III. Mr. Shelton started working for construction companies doing interior and exterior painting, hanging wallpaper, installing carpet, painting occasional business signs on his back porch, air-brushing T-shirts at local events and fairs, and moonlighting as a photographer, bartender, and manager at local nightclubs.
One day while visiting a local flea market, he met another local artist painting metal car tags with air-brush and acrylic paints. Later he returned home and began experimenting and invented a new method of painting car tags by hand on a mirrored surface, instead of metal.
By the mid 1980s, he had befriended local event producer and entrepreneur. Gilbert Udoto, owner of Odyssey Records, and began selling air-brush T-shirts and mirror car tags with his two first children every weekend on the sidewalk in front of Odyssey Records in the Shackelford Plaza.
Today, thousands of his mirror car tags are displayed on vehicles throughout the city. Because of his unique product, Mr. Shelton had customers from as far away as California, Arizona, New Mexico, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina.
Odyssey Records proved to be a great location for exposure of his new product and is also a place to make new friendships. There is where he met and married Veronica Shelton the couple welcomed their daughter Ashley in 1990. His launch of the mirror car tag was so successful that by 1994, he opened his first store and car wash at Jefferson Street and Gordon Avenue.
In 1998, Mr. Shelton lost everything in a devastating flood and chose a new location at 100 Front St. near the Broad Street Bridge. His reputation as an air-brush artist flourished as expanded his business to painting large business signs and air-brush art on vehicle hoods, trunks, and doors.
He relocated the business to Sunshine Plaza on Broad Avenue because the city and Albany Tomorrow started the development of the Riverfront built the Hilton Garden Inn. In 2000, he met and married Bridgette, and they welcomed a son, Timberland. Bridgette proved to be beneficial to his business because she joined his staff and suggested that he consider screen-printing shirts for family reunions church groups and their departed loved ones.
Financial difficulties forced Mr. Shelton to close his doors in 2005, so he left Albany and traveled to New Orleans and Mississippi to help with Katrina recovery, working as a wallpaper hanger and painter for various construction companies. By 2007, he returned to Albany and became a business contractor, managing properties throughout the city, and returned to his roots in exterior painting and wallpaper hanging throughout southwest Georgia in Mitchell, Thomas, and Grady counties.
In 2008, he returned to the place of his humble beginnings and re-opened Tim’s Artistic Art with his eldest son Cedrick Shelton as a co-owner in the Shackleford Plaza. Albanians turned out in large numbers to attend the grand opening, and local radio and news covered the event. As the economy struggled, his mirror car tags sales slumped, but by shifting his focus to screen-printing the business was able to recover. Along with his son as a graphic designer, the business was able to expand production of screen-printed T-shirts.
Throughout his life, Mr. Shelton faced many challenges, but he always found a way to keep his various businesses going for more than 22 years because he responded to market trends by expanding his product line and financially supporting his business through his commercial artwork, wall-paper hanging, interior and exterior painting, and choosing business locations with great exposure.
As a professional wallpaper hanger, his clients Southwest Georgia Regional Airport, Darton College, Albany State University, Phoebe Putney Hospital, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Miller Brewing Co., New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, and Second Mt. Zion Baptist Church to name a few. Victoria Secrets was so impressed with the quality of his work that he was flown to Washington, DC to hang wallpaper in two of the company’s flagship stores.
Mr. Shelton also mentored artists in the construction industry by teaching them the trade of painting and wallpaper hanging, and he fostered the careers of local artists like Patrick Warren and John Floyd.
While his widow, Bridgette Shelton, family, friends, and the many lives he touched mourn his passing, the community should not be saddened for long because his legacy lives on through his work scattered throughout the city and his five children: Cedrick Shelton (Tim’s Artistic Art, owner), Tim Shelton III (Club Xscape, ProGrip, owner), Anthony McCray Shelton (Sway Entertainment Group, owner), Ashley Shelton, and Timberland Shelton, who continue his legacy of entrepreneurship.
Tim Shelton Jr.’s son, Cedrick Shelton, is a local writer and graduate of Monroe High School and Morehouse College.