The coldest day Birmingham’s seen in a long time was perfect for going out to soak in some holiday cheer with Java Lewis’ Christmas windows. For 15 years, Lewis, also known as “Mr. Painterman,” has been painting windows downtown, bringing the Christmas spirit to all who are lucky enough to see his artwork. Keep reading for a visual tour of 11 of his windows.
But first, who is Java Lewis?
Java Lewis has been painting Christmas windows in Birmingham’s shops for 15 years. He grew up in Birmingham, spent some time away, and became homeless when he returned.
For a while, he slept at the Brother Bryan mission at night and painted at the corner of 1st Avenue North and 20th Street by day. He painted lots of things, including buildings, portraits and landscapes.
Legend has it that a woman named Patti Reid, then an executive with 1st American Bank, produced a book about him called Mr. Painterman, and the proceeds from the book and from his paintings helped him get off the street.
Mr. Lewis doesn’t just paint Christmas windows. You can find him all over town painting, teaching, doing hair (yes, he does hair, too) and organizing art shows for the community.
1—Lucy’s Coffee & Tea
Lucy’s Coffee & Tea on University Boulevard is all decked out for the holidays with Java Lewis’ paintings adorning all the windows.
Right next door to Lucy’s is this sweet window at University Tacos. How can you not feel festive looking at that?
3—Sol’s Sandwich Shop and Deli
Sol’s Sandwich Shop has been visited by Santa and his reindeer a little early this year.
4—Alabama Peanut Co.
The Alabama Peanut Co. on Morris Avenue wishes you a Southern & Salty Christmas.
5—John’s City Diner
Lewis took a slightly different tack from his other Christmas windows at John’s City Diner. This one features all white—perfect for a wintry day.
Don’t those green curtains and the brightly colored paintings at El Barrio exude a warm and cozy vibe?
7—Goodyear Shoe Hospital
Loved the play on words at the Goodyear Shoe Hospital, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy Good Year.
I thought I’d researched all the windows Lewis painted this year, so this one caught me completely by surprise when I happened upon it. Find it next door to The Vault.
9—Dog Days of Birmingham
Those of us who work at Forge in The Pizitz pass these adorable windows every day. Isn’t the dog looking through the wreath adorable?
10—Touch of Elegance Barber & Style Shop
Java Lewis recently reached out to let me know he’d be painting a window near the Carver Theatre. When I hopped out of the car, he greeted me with the warm smile of an old friend who’d been expecting me.
We chatted for a bit, and then he put his paintbrush up to the window and flawlessly painted these letters. “I’ve been doing this for a long time,” he told me.
I’d never been to Studio 104 before, right next to Redemptive Cycles. So I was surprised to see what a huge space it is. This was one set of three similar-sized windows that spanned the entire storefront. So lovely.
If you want to reach out to Java Lewis, call him on 205.617.9164. Look for his book, Mr. Painterman, at Alabama Art Supply in late January 2020.