Across Atlanta, you'll start to see new murals popping up as part of the "Off the Wall" project to create a long-lasting, beautiful impact on the city in preparation for Super Bowl LIII.
“It is a part of the legacy and the foundations and the forward moving that Atlanta continues to do,” said Atlanta native and “Off the Wall” artist Shanequa Gay.
Gay is working on two murals alongside nine other selected artists to create a total of thirty new works of art all in time for the Superbowl visitors to enjoy.
“We have a lot of different themes of different perspectives of our community groups--thinking about gender lines, race, and ethnicity, age groups, just different life experiences,” said Lee Hendrickson of the Super Bowl LIII Host Committee.
The artists are creating masterpieces inspired by the civil rights movement and issues of social justice.
One of Gay’s murals not only honors her own family but also those who walked the streets of Auburn Avenue before her.
“I think about my ancestors,” said Gay. “I think about my grandparents. How well do I remember them? Outside of photo albums, what do we do to remember them? What do we do to honor their legacy? We get to enjoy it, but we really don’t think about who laid the foundation for us,” the artist explained.
Each artist spent hours going to community meetings to learn what life is like in the neighborhood where their mural is installed. That way, when visitors come to Atlanta for the big game, they'll be able to get a flavor for what life and culture is like in the city.
“I came up with keywords after going to these meetings,” Gay said. “Themes that kept coming up, and they were: legacy, remembrance, ‘what do we bring?’ ‘where did the people who used to live here go?’”
Gay came from a family of quiltmakers and used that to create a patchwork effect on her largest mural. “This is a patchwork of all the things that came with Sweet Auburn, so this is Maggie Dobbs, we have civil rights leaders, and soda pop,” Gay explained pointing to portions of her mural. “This was the first African American soda pop company,” Gay said.
Gay also painted a mural at the Vine City MARTA station inspired by a conversation with homeless youth.
“It’s a representation of the vast vegetation in Georgia and the people who possibly sleep under that vegetation,” said Gay of the floral design.
The other murals celebrate the LGBTQ community and the continued fight for tolerance--a fight Gay says will not see progress unless the struggles of the past are lifted high.
“I hope they see bright and beautiful colors and see that as creatives here in Atlanta, we are trying to send a message through our work,” said Gay.
That message isn't just for those visiting for the big game--it's meant as a daily reminder for those watching Atlanta grow and change every single day.
“The things that we enjoy now, someone laid that foundation for us,” Gay said. “So it’s important to remember that, and it’s important to create landmarks of remembrance.”
Would you like to visit some of the murals? Visit WonderRoot’s “Off the Wall” for more information, or check out these spots:
454 Irwin St. mural by Shanequa Gay
222 Mitchell St. mural by The Loss Prevention
Vine City MARTA Station mural by Shanequa Gay
171 Mitchell St. mural by Brandan Odums
Escobar Restaurant and Tapas mural by Brandan Odums
Nelson St. and Tatnall St. mural by Yungai
AUC at Woodruff Library mural by Yungai
“Freedom Fighters” at The American Hotel Atlanta Downtown mural by Yehimi Cambron
“Monuments: We Carry the Dreams” at the Georgia State Station mural by Yehimi Cambron