‘Here we are on the precipice of the future:’ Atlanta Muralists Reclaim Public Spaces
Three days before the Super Bowl in Atlanta, workers tore down a wall in an empty building, only blocks from the Mercedes Benz stadium. The wall bore a mural of Colin Kaepernick. Within days, the artist Fabian Williams raised enough money to gather a handful of fellow artists; they made #Kaeperbowl, nine more murals around the city. The much-publicized effort is only one aspect of Williams’ work, however; he has been part of a growing muralist movement in Atlanta for several years, and recently helped organize another series of murals memorializing slain rapper Nipsey Hussle. He and business partner Ash Nash have also launched a nonprofit organization calledBloom aimed at turning Atlanta into “an international arts destination by transforming underserved communities to be self sustainable through creativity.”
Along the way, he and other artists are claiming public spaces for images that elevate heroes who look like them and messages that resonate with the people who live there—a pointed rejoinder to the ongoing conflict over Confederate monuments and what is celebrated in public squares of the urban South. “My thing is, if you’re going to make laws to protect monuments, then we should make our own monuments bigger. Let’s make a four-story statue of MLK right here,” Williams said, standing recently in a lot on the corner of Peeples St. and Ralph David Abernathy Blvd., in Atlanta.
Jesse is graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta (SCAD) this year; her work has appeared in the Guardian, the Atlantic, PBS NewsHour and other outlets.
Timothy Pratt is based outside Atlanta. He has worked with The New York Times, The Guardian, The Associated Press, Reuters, and many other outlets, covering race, immigration, science, soccer, and more, in English and Spanish.