Former minor leaguer’s art has major league home at SunTrust Park

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Former minor leaguer’s art has major league home at SunTrust Park

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For the AJC
Richard Sullivan created five paintings honoring the World Series won in 1914 by the Boston Braves. The artist was a baseball player himself: He spent five years with the Atlanta Braves’ minor league affiliates in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Danville, Va., Rome, Ga., and Pearl, Miss.

Richard Sullivan was one of those rare children growing up who took an interest and excelled in both athletics and the arts. Now, after going pro in both disciplines, he’s landed a permanent place in the new Atlanta Braves stadium.

Sixteen of Sullivan’s paintings feature inSunTrust Park as part of a 300-piece installation on display throughout the stadium.

The watercolor paintings depict the Braves organization’s three World Series wins in 1914, 1957 and 1995. They are located in the Champions Suites, which are on the lower level near the Hank Aaron statue.

A long curving hallway connects the 10 luxury boxes, with 16 of Sullivan’s paintings decorating the walls plus two prints located inside each suite. There are five paintings dedicated to each championship, plus a special stand-alone dedicated to the most recent title in ‘95.

After spending five years in the Atlanta Braves minor league system, Richard Sullivan embarked on a painting career that has landed his work in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center and SunTrust Park. CONTRIBUTED For the AJC

Sullivan, who lives in Louisville, Ky., flew into Atlanta last weekend to take part in a tour of SunTrust Park given to select fans, and was able to see his paintings in their new digs along with the park itself.

“The new stadium is incredible,” he said. “A stadium has a totally different atmosphere and vibe when there’s not a game going on, but every seat is so close to the field. You can really tell they’ve put a lot of energy and thought into it.”

The Braves opened SunTrust Park for a behind-the-scenes media tour Tuesday, three days before the ballpark will be opened to season-ticket holders for an exhibition game Friday against the New York Yankees. Video by Hyosub Shin

A dream come true

After high school, the Louisville, Ky., native continued to focus on his twin interests — baseball and painting — as he joined the baseball team at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in 2005.

During high school and college, baseball was the more important of the two, with artwork sitting ready in the bullpen. Sullivan went professional on the diamond as a left-handed pitcher after getting drafted by the Braves in 2008.

He spent five years with the team’s minor league affiliates in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Danville, Va., Rome, Ga., and Pearl, Miss. During this time, Sullivan shared a locker room with the likes of Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel and other future greats.

Richard Sullivan’s depictions of the World Series champion Milwaukee Braves include a painting of Hank Aaron, who later moved with the team to Atlanta. For the AJC

Given these connections with the team, having artwork in the Braves stadium is a dream come true.

“This is one of the most special projects I’ve done, and I’m so honored to have it,” Sullivan said. “I can’t imagine getting another project that means as much to me as this one. Since I was 21, I’ve been connected to the Braves, and to have it come full circle is amazing.”

The 1995 Atlanta Braves included a young Chipper Jones, whose image is featured in one of 16 paintings of the team Richard Sullivan created. For the AJC

The Braves front office also noted the importance of having local artwork in the stadium.

“We want SunTrust Park to feel like more than just a ballpark to our fans — we want it to feel like a home,” Braves president of business Derek Schiller said in a release from the team. “These original works of art, many of which were commissioned from local artists, create an intimate and familiar environment in SunTrust Park, making Braves Country feel right at home.”

A subject close to his heart

When his baseball career ended, Sullivan was just getting started on a venture that would land his work in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum,the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center,the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory and even in the office of Braves executive John Schuerholz.

Richard Sullivan’s paintings are located in the hallways outside the Champions Suites at SunTrust Park, and depict the Braves organization’s three World Series titles in 1914, 1957 and 1995. CONTRIBUTED For the AJC

Sullivan went back to SCAD and earned a degree in illustration in 2014. There was a bit of a struggle deciding exactly what to paint, but the revelation came soon enough.

“After graduating, I realized I should combine my love of baseball and sports with watercolor,” Sullivan said.

Now 29, much of Sullivan’s artwork depicts modern-day sports heroes like 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson, NBA phenom LeBron James and MLB standout Bryce Harper. He’s not afraid to venture into the past, though, painting the likes of Muhammad Ali and, at SunTrust Park, the 1914 Boston Braves.

At an age when many of his peers still play professional sports, Sullivan is carving more and more inroads into the sports business as an artist. He aims to continue on that path, though his work with the Braves will always be a major milestone.

“My aim was to give fans a story they can immerse themselves in through the World Series wins,” Sullivan said. “My work and my art has been a steady progression that has led up to this point.”

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