There’s more than graffiti on DeKalb Avenue

Q: I have noticed all the graffiti on the walls on DeKalb Avenue. As I was driving by the other day, I saw a wall with a beautiful painting that obviously wasn’t graffiti. It really sticks out. Can you tell me about it?

A: The wall you are referring to is a mural entitled "Native Waters" designed and painted by Boston artist David Fichter along with 100 volunteers.

Fichter has been creating community murals and mosaics for over 30 years . The once unattractive retaining wall on DeKalb Avenue showcases the the journey of the rivers and watersheds of Georgia from the location of the mural, according to his website.

“Murals are like tattoos on the canvas of our urban spaces. They interact magically with their surroundings in a way other types of art do not,” Fichter said in an email to the AJC.

The outdoor scenes include natural habitat as it traces the streams, lakes and rivers. The people in the mural include many of those involved in the collaborative process.

The hand-painted panoramic mural is 343 feet long and as tall as 20 feet on DeKalb Avenue N.E. parallel to MARTA and the CSX line in the Lake Claire neighborhood of East Atlanta between Connecticut and Arizona Avenues N.E.

“When a group of Lake Claire neighbors learned that the ridge that borders their neighborhood also forms the Eastern Subcontinental Divide, they thought others would want to know too - that they live at the top of the watershed(s),” Kathy Evans, who was the lead organizer of this project, said in an email to the AJC.

Initially, the thought was to post informational panels to mark the Subcontinental Divide and the two watersheds. The idea grew as Evans walked her beagle one day, according to Fichter.

Evans’ vision expanded to an illustration of not only the waterways but also the native plant life and animals one would see along the way.

Sharing her idea with neighbor, Bill Fleming, he knew exactly who should paint it.

The entire process took several years, according to Fichter. Commissioned by the Lake Claire Neighborhood Association, the actual work on the wall took about 1 1/2 years and was dedicated on Earth Day, April 22, 2007.

The mural is divided into thirds: On the left are the waterways that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, in the center are the communities on the Eastern Sub-Continental Divide and on the right are rivers that empty into the Atlantic Ocean.

Stop next time you are in the area and walk along the mural to see how the stories unfold.

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