Downtown Atlanta ‘whale wall' to sleep with the fishes

Atlanta is losing its whales.

Don't panic. The Georgia Aquarium's belugas are not going anywhere.

The state of Georgia  next week will begin removing the landmark, football-field-sized whale mural near Underground Atlanta.

The painting, known as the "Wyland Whaling Wall" for its mono-named artist Wyland, features a family of whales frolicking in a blue ocean above the state's historic Freight Depot.

The mural was installed in 1993 and is sometimes confused as the site of  the world's largest aquarium, said Katy Pando, spokeswoman for the Georgia Building Authority, which owns the wall.

The removal is necessary because the state-owned 90 Central Parking garage on which the mural is painted is deteriorating and the concrete must be exposed and paint-free for it to be repaired, Pando said. Work on the interior of the 44-year-old garage began this summer.

The project is expected to cost $1.3 million and will be paid for with general obligation bonds from the state's capital budget. It will be finished in November.

Georgia State University will take over the space after the mural is removed. Spokeswoman Andrea Jones said the school will use it to promote the university but no decision has been made on what form that promotion will take.

Pando said the mural is in poor condition.

"It's peeling," Pando said. "It hasn't been touched up in a decade."

The painting was one of dozens installed around the country between the 1980s and 2008 to educate the public on marine life. A quarter of them have since been replaced or covered, Pando said.

Artist Wyland agreed to take care of maintenance on the artwork for 10 years after its installation. Pando said the state contacted the Wyland Foundation about its repair plans, including the need to removal the mural. The group "expressed no interest in repainting the mural," she said.