Atlanta to bring human rights murals to city for Super Bowl

- In the months leading up to the 2019 Super Bowl, some of Atlanta's bare walls will get a makeover.

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The city of Atlanta and the Super Bowl Host Committee have partnered with arts group WonderRoot to launch "Off the Wall." The project will create up to 30 murals focusing on Atlanta's past, present and future role in civil and human rights. The murals will transform the city in hopes of sparking a community-wide conversation, said Brett Daniels, chief operating officer of the host committee.

The initiative was announced Thursday at a press conference in front of a mural of civil rights giant U.S. Rep. John Lewis. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms noted the importance of the location: The mural is close the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once preached. The streets surrounding the mural were the birthplace of Atlanta's civil rights movement, Bottoms said.

"Quite often art is a conversation starter," Bottoms said.

Although the Super Bowl is a one-time event in Atlanta, those involved with Off the Wall hope the event leaves an enduring legacy. In recent years, street art has popped up throughout the city. By focusing on human and civil rights as the content of the murals, Off the Wall hopes to create lasting conversations about issues affecting the city.

"There is no greater legacy than Atlanta's contributions to the civil rights movement," WonderRoot executive director Chris Appleton said.

The artwork will begin appearing in the city this fall. A subcommittee is scouting locations and talent to produce the work, but officials said some of the murals will be downtown. Freedom University, an initiative that provides college prep and other services for immigrant students in the country illegally, will help in both the creation and installation of the art.

"Young people in this city have been leading the way for human rights," Freedom University executive director Laura Emiko Soltis said. She said they were "standing on the shoulders of giants," referencing leaders such as Lewis.

NFL players have sparked controversy and drawn criticism from President Donald Trump and some members of the public for kneeling during the national anthem. Although inspired by the way people are using their spotlight to promote human rights, Off the Wall was in the works before the anthem protests, Appleton said. The project has the support of the NFL, according to Daniels.

"This project was inspired by the way artists and other activists struggle for justice and equality for all," Appleton said, calling protests a powerful way to transform communities.

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