New plus-size murals addressing justice and equality dot Downtown environs before the Super Bowl and beyond.
Shanequa Gay in her Georgia State University studio.
While overseeing some art-based storytelling work on the Westside, WonderRoot’s Chris Appleton kept getting the same question from members of the community: “How will we tell Atlanta’s story during Super Bowl LIII?” The answer: Off the Wall, a citywide initiative engaging 10 artists from across the country to design and install a swath of murals depicting the city’s civil rights and social justice journey throughout Downtown-area neighborhoods—all just in time for the big game.
“Viewers can expect to see upward of 30 large-scale, permanent artworks that address the multiplicity of truths that exist in relation to Atlanta’s struggle for civil and human rights, past, present and future,” says Appleton, co-founder of the membership-based community arts center that’s spearheading the project. “Some artworks are hopeful and aspirational; some are solemn and hard-hitting.”
Participating muralists were chosen by a committee of arts professionals, civic leaders and community members, with the themes of the panoramas informed by more than 40 neighborhood conversations held during the summer at sites such as Ebenezer Baptist Church. The artists hail from Miami, New Orleans, Baltimore and New York, with six in Atlanta, including Shanequa Gay, Sheila Pree Bright, The Loss Prevention collective, Gilbert Young, Yehimi Cambron and Muhammad Yungai.
Gay’s mural sketch, installed at Vine City MARTA station.
Gay says the initiative “places the artist’s voice at the center of the city. [It’s] an honor. ... This is Atlanta history I am creating on these walls.” She adds, “Artists were charged with attending community meetings to get a gauge on what the concerns and passions are of the people of the city of Atlanta. I attended six. We were to draw our inspiration for our designs [from them]. We are creative citizens stalking the borders of the community and bringing back what we have gleaned through visual messages.”
“Each artist brings a history of addressing social justice issues in their work,” says Appleton. “Our artists are truth-tellers, inspirers and agents for change.” What he’s most anticipating? “How these 30 murals will speak to each other; the collection of works will give us a sense of Atlanta’s struggle for justice and equality.”
Photography by: sketch photo courtesy of wonderroot; shanequa gay photo by harold daniels