In this episode of “ATL Close Up,” Melissa A. Mitchell, a visual artist who has seen recent success with corporate partnerships like Ford, shares with the AJC her favorite places in Atlanta, including Iwi Fresh Garden Day Spa and Atlanta Hot Shave, located within walking distance of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. (Video by Ryon Horne and Najja Parker / AJC)

Artist Melissa Mitchell shares where she finds Atlanta’s best plant-based burger, art gems

The Atlanta visual artist created masterpieces for Super Bowl 53, Ford and more.

Love perusing through social media to find out what your favorite influencers are up to? Get a closer glimpse into how they spend their time in Atlanta with “ATL Closeup,” a new AJC feature that explores the leisure lives of some of the city’s most notable personalities as they go from work to play mode over the course of a typical weekend —from their favorite places to dine to the little-known spots where they find retreat.

The old adage ‘you can’t be in two places at once’ doesn’t apply to Melissa Mitchell. There are traces of the self-taught visual artist all throughout the city. 

Drive downtown to the  M Bar Ultra Lounge or visit the Purple Corkscrew Wine Shop and Tasting Room in Avondale Estates to gaze at some of her vibrant, inventive murals.

During the Super Bowl 53 festivities, you might have even passed a bold, Pepsi painting alongside Northside Drive that read, “The south got something to say.” Yep, Mitchell created that, too.

Overall, the Miami-native, who moved to the ATL about 12 years ago, has created more than 500 original art pieces and over 40 murals. She has also harnessed her artistry for collaborations with brands, such as Ford, Home Depot and Macy’s

Her path to becoming a sought-after visual artist happened by mistake, Mitchell said. She picked up a paintbrush for the first time only five years ago.

“It was one snowy day in Atlanta while I was stuck in my house during the snow storm,” Mitchell recalled during her interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I had some old wood in the garage, and I was like, ‘Man, I need to find something to do.’ And I literally heard the word ‘paint.’ I said, ‘paint?! I ain’t no painter painter.’..It went from me finding something to do to literally turning my town time into my actual purpose.”

She began drawing and designing to cure her boredom while stuck at home during the 2014 Snowpocalypse, and she hasn’t stopped creating since. In fact, that experience helped her launch her Atlanta-based company, Abeille Creations, which offers art pieces clothing and accessories. 

“Atlanta has been a place that has truly shaped me as an adult. I’ve seen the evolution of myself,” she said. “Atlanta is ingrained in my veins. Just as a business owner, I’ve had the courage to do more than the average.”

When the spirited entrepreneur isn’t tending to her canvasses, she’s carving out time to hit up some of her favorite haunts. Here’s where you’ll likely find her on the weekend.

Finger-licking good meal

Mitchell loves exploring new restaurants. Since becoming a “part-time pescatarian,” she’s been frequenting Local Green Atlanta, located near the Atlanta University Center.

“It’s great for when you’re trying to transition from eating meat a lot,” she explained. “I just had a really dope shrimp burger.”

Her go-to sandwich packs pan seared jumbo shrimp, homemade slaw, tomatoes, sriracha mayo and cilantro lime sauce between two buns.

The eatery, which has pescatarian, vegetarian and vegan options, also has the “Bad & Boujee” tuna wrap, the“My Mayor's Name is Keisha” quinoa salad, and a host of smoothies.

The Slutty Vegan, which opened just a few months ago, in Westview is another favorite. Patrons stand in line for hours for a taste of one of its plant-based burgers.

»RELATED: First Look: Slutty Vegan brings fun plant-based food to Westview

“I’m a burger girl, but when I transitioned from eating meat, I was like, ‘I can give up meat, but I’m not giving up my burgers,’” she laughed. “It’s a great place to eat what you want while still being healthy.”

Her top dining picks:

Local Green Atlanta, 19 Joseph E. Lowery Blvd NW, Atlanta. 770-883-8291, localgreenatlanta.com.

The Slutty Vegan, 1542 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd, Atlanta. sluttyveganatl.com.

Sloppy Toppy plant-based patty with vegan cheese, jalapeños and spicy mayo on a Hawaiian bun. Photo credit- Mia Yakel.

Shop-til-you-drop spot 

It’s not unlikely to see Mitchell at a thrift shop or consignment store. She’s big on bargains, so you might also catch her perusing the racks of Saks Off 5th or Nordstrom Rack in Buckhead Station.  

When she can’t find the perfect fit, she makes her own threads for herself and others. She uses her art to make head wraps, satin coats, dresses, backpacks and purses. 

“I’m like one of ones, which is why I make most of my clothing,” she said. “I’m big on having things people can’t find, which is why I like being an artist. If I can’t figure it out, I can create it.” 

Some of her items have been featured in Essence and Vogue Magazine, and actress Lupita Nyong’o has even sported one of her signature wraps.

Her top shopping picks:

Saks Off 5th at Buckhead Station, 1 Buckhead Loop NE, Atlanta. 404-260-5121, locations.saksoff5th.com/en/buckhead.

Nordstrom Rack at Buckhead Station, 3495 Buckhead Loop NE, Atlanta. 404-736-2230, stores.nordstromrack.com.

Abeille Creations, melissaamitchell.com/shop.

Social Hour

While Mitchell said she’s a bit of a recluse, she’ll occasionally stroll down Auburn Avenue or Edgewood on a Saturday. But M Bar Ultra Lounge is particularly special to her. It’s where she painted her very first mural.

“When I walk in, I’m like a local celebrity ... You can get really good food, really good commerce and really good music. The deejays are really dope,” she said. “They also have political events. So it’s not just about hanging out and partying, it’s about spending money with people who actually care about you.”

Her top party spot pick:

M Bar Ultra Lounge, 186 Auburn Ave. NE, Atlanta. 404-331-5500, mbaratlanta.com.

The wind down

As a creative, Mitchell gets drained easily. “I give out so much creatively that I get on ‘e’ really quickly,” she said.

To refuel, she hits up Iwi Fresh Farm-to-Skin Spa near downtown. She’s either dropping by for a rejuvenating facial, a herbal massage, a veggie pedicure or just to say ‘hi’ to the owners and staff. 

“The feeling in the building is a natural recharge,” she described. “It’s a place I know I can come to get the recharge that I need.”

She also visits to stock up on body scrubs, oils and creams or to participate in the beauty classes and events.

“They usually have a little marketplace on the weekends,” she said. “Entrepreneurs and designers come in to sell their products. There’s always somebody new here to meet.” 

Her top relax destinations: 

Iwi Fresh, 341 Nelson St. SW, Atlanta. 404-577-8072, iwifresh.com.

February 28, 2019 Atlanta - Melissa A. Mitchell gets her quick touch up at one of her favorite places in Atlanta, Iwi Fresh Garden Day Spa and Atlanta Hot Shave. Mitchell, a visual artist who has seen recent success with corporate partnerships like Ford, shares with the AJC her favorite places in Atlanta for ATL Close Up. RYON HORNE / RHORNE@AJC.COM
Photo: Ryon Horne

Hidden gem 

If you want to admire art, Mitchell has two suggestions. 

“There’s a little place called The Gallery EAV in East Atlanta Village,” she said. “The owner really tries to support local artists.”

Second on her list is the ZuCot Gallery near downtown. It has the largest collection of African-American art in the southeast, according to the museum’s website. 

When Barack Obama came to Atlanta to campaign for Stacey Abrams during the Georgia governor race last November, people picked up their tickets for the event at ZuCot.

“It has some million-dollar pieces in there, and you would never know it,” she revealed. “It’s a place in Atlanta that has become iconic, but people don’t even know it ... Between The Gallery EAV and ZuCot, I am inspired every time I go.”

If you go: 

The Gallery EAV, 490 Flat Shoals Ave SE, Atlanta. 404-997-8337. thegalleryeav.org.

ZuCot Gallery, 100 Centennial Olympic Park Drive NW, Atlanta. 404-380-1040, zucotgallery.com.

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