Atlanta has hundreds of murals painted on its factory exteriors, highway overpasses and retaining walls.
They range from 100-foot-high monsterpieces to hidden jewels in tunnels and alleys.
The challenge is seeing them before they are erased and replaced with something else.
“Atlanta has a mural problem,” said Rory “Catlanta” Hawkins, a muralist and mainstay of the free art movement.
“Atlanta doesn’t look at it the same way other cities do, where pieces will stay up for some time.”
Hawkins has worked two weeks on a mural only to see it painted over two weeks later. “I tend to not think about it and hope that it’s gonna last for a while.”
With that in mind, we picked out 11 murals for you to see, with the help of artists and curators. We can’t guarantee they’ll still be there when you get there.
Now is a big time for murals in the city. The OuterSpace Project, helmed by muralist Greg Mike, just finished bringing 16 artists, some of them from far-flung locales, to paint walls and throw a party.
More outdoor art is on the way. The city of Atlanta is teaming up with non-profit cultural center WonderRoot to create 30 murals around the city in time for the Super Bowl.
WonderRoot founder and executive director Chris Appleton said the designs for the walls came together after many meetings with community groups in the area around Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “What emerged is people’s desire to amplify Atlanta’s legacy as a beacon for hope and change around the civil rights movement,” he said.
The first designs for those walls won’t be revealed until late October. “It’s not a beautification project,” said Camille Russell Love, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. “It’s art with a means to an end, to spur conversation surrounding social justice.”
These images and those from other mural sponsors, such as Living Walls, will be added to the growing list of plus-sized work on Art Rudick’s website, Atlanta Street Art Map, perhaps the most comprehensive record of outdoor painted art in Atlanta. In 2016, after 32 years as an engineer at Coca-Cola, Rudick retired and began spending about 20 hours a week taking photographs of murals, interviewing artists, and keeping up with the constantly changing scene.
He estimates there are close to 500 walls on his site, but there are probably hundreds more outside I-285. Rudick only details art inside the Perimeter, because he can’t keep track of the full metro area. “At least twice a year I will check every single mural and make sure that it’s still there.”
Among the grand old murals in the city is David Fichter’s “Native Waters: A Watershed Mural,” on DeKalb Avenue in the Lake Claire area. The artwork tells a panoramic tale of water in Georgia, from a mountain trickle to the splash of a sea turtle. It is 340 feet long and up to 20 feet tall in some places. Volunteers painted it with brushes (not spray cans), working from January, 2006 until April, 2007.
It runs alongside the subcontinental divide, which, in Decatur, and Atlanta, includes DeKalb Avenue. The late Mary Civille, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution archivist/librarian, wrote about participating in that project for the online magazine, Like the Dew.
Peter Ferrari said “Native Waters” is one of his favorites. Another Ferrari favorite would be the half-mile of artwork on the retaining wall alongside the CSX railroad tracks in Cabbagetown. Ferrari is the official “wall keeper” of Cabbagetown, a locale that was once plagued with taggers and other graffiti vandals.
Now Cabbagetown hosts an annual summertime event called “Forward Warrior,” in which Ferrari invites a broad range of artists to share their ideas and images on the Wylie Street wall. In true Atlanta style, many of those murals are painted on top of other murals, obliterating them. “Maybe 30 percent, 40 percent of it gets painted over,”” said Ferrari. “Stuff that lasts the longest is the successful collaboration between four or five artists. That’s the look I want.”
Sometimes sheer size helps a mural persevere. If so, the six-story work by Sabek at 573 Memorial Drive may stand the test of time. The Spanish painter is among the international artists brought to Atlanta by the OuterSpace Project, which has underwriting from a host of commercial sponsors, including Home Depot.
“I always say get out, explore,” said Greg Mike. “We did our project to beautify the streets and get people to go to different neighborhoods, where maybe they’ve never been.”
Our Top 11:
“Big Little Chickens,” by Lindsey O’Shields: 17 Whitlock Ave., Marietta
Patch Whiskey’s hallucinatory skull and balloon: 536 Decatur St.
“Larry Loudmouf,” by Greg Mike: corner of Edgewood and Krog streets.
Lela Brunet’s watercolor forest: behind Heards Ferry Elementary School, 6151 Powers Ferry Road, Sandy Springs.
MARTA bus cat, by Rory “Catlanta” Hawkins: Wylie Street, in Cabbagetown
“Rise Above,” by Fahamu Pecou: King Memorial MARTA Station
Blue man and red woman, by Insane51, of Athens, Greece: Blu Cantina, 1242 Glenwood Ave.
Olive47’s mural on the Freedom Lofts: at Ralph McGill Boulevard and the Eastside BeltLine
Sabek’s towering girl with a flower: at 573 Memorial Drive
“Native Waters” by David Fichter: along DeKalb Avenue, in the Lake Claire neighborhood
Jerry chasing cheese, by Jerkface: at 1083 Euclid Ave.
These works and others can be toured by visiting Art Rudick’s website: Atlanta Street Art Map.
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