Murals near stadium highlight Atlanta's civil rights legacy
Murals near stadium highlight Atlanta's civil rights legacy In this Dec. 13, 2018, photo, Muhammad Yungai paints mural on a building near the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. A series of about 30 murals on walls around the downtown Atlanta stadium that will host the Super Bowl aims to highlight Atlanta's civil rights legacy. The murals are part of an initiative called "Off The Wall: Atlanta's Civil Rights and Social Justice Journey." (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Murals near stadium highlight Atlanta's civil rights legacy
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As Atlanta prepares to host the Super Bowl, artists there are painting murals that highlight the city's civil rights and social justice legacy.

The artwork adorning neighborhoods near the downtown stadium where the game will be played is part of an initiative called "Off The Wall: Atlanta's Civil Rights and Social Justice Journey." The project is a collaboration between arts advocacy group WonderRoot and the Super Bowl host committee. While the murals' installation was timed to coincide with the Feb. 3 sports extravaganza, they are meant to be lasting public works of art for Atlantans to enjoy long after the football fans have left.

The idea was to celebrate Atlanta's role in the civil rights struggle of the 1950s and 1960s and connect that rich legacy with more contemporary struggles for justice and equality, WonderRoot executive director Chris Appleton said.

"We definitely have works that, for good reason, make Atlanta proud of its role in the civil rights movement and the human rights movement, and we have murals that invite and challenge us in Atlanta to continue striving for that beloved community," Appleton said.

The term "beloved community" was made popular by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., an Atlanta native, to describe a society centered on equal opportunity and justice and rooted in the philosophy of nonviolence.

Several dozen "community conversations" brought out unheard and untold stories about the struggle for justice that needed to be elevated, Appleton said. The artists sat in on those conversations and used them to inform their mural designs, which then went through two rounds of community feedback.

"I really believe the artists have done a great job of amplifying and complexifying narratives around justice issues in Atlanta and beyond," Appleton said. "The murals, as a collection, are celebratory in some cases, are aspirational in some cases and are rooted in truth-telling."

A nomination and selection committee invited artists from around the country to apply, and the panel chose 10 applicants. An 11th spot, dubbed "Atlanta's choice," was open only to Atlanta area artists and was voted on by the public. In total, they plan to install roughly 30 murals.

Muhammad Yungai, the muralist selected by public vote, drew inspiration from a community conversation held at Spelman College, where he learned about students who volunteered at a nearby community farm.

His mural, "Community Roots," is on a wall in Atlanta's Castleberry Hill neighborhood. It showcases actual students from four historically black colleges and universities in Atlanta — Spelman, Morehouse, Clark Atlanta and Morris Brown — and the produce they help grow. He wanted to shine a light on the four schools, which sit a stone's throw from Mercedes Benz Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played, and on urban farming and community gardening.

The 44-year-old middle school art teacher and professional muralist said his work often focuses on education.

"I believe education is the biggest thing that we can do as a culture to ensure that everyone can achieve the life they want," Yungai said.

Shanequa Gay, 40, was inspired by a community conversation at Covenant House, which provides housing and support for homeless young people. Her mural, "Excuse me while I kiss the sky," adorns the walls of the Vine City transit station, across the street the stadium.

Gay said she wanted to represent people who sleep under the trees and bushes. Dark outlines of leaves and flowers that she said are inspired by Georgia's abundant vegetation are layered over brightly colored profiles of young people she met at Covenant House.
"I went and took photographs of these young people making kissy faces to kind of humanize homelessness because we don't attribute kissing with being homeless — or joy or laughter or young people," she said.

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How do you think the murals will help teach people about the Civil Rights Movement?
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  • EmilyS-pla
    2/12/2019 - 09:00 a.m.

    11 selected artists were given the opportunity to paint murals--30 in total-- adorning the football stadium in Atlanta in preparation for the 2019 Super Bowl. Though these murals were meant to be viewed at the Super Bowl, their purpose is to give Atlanta a visual reminder of the civil rights movements and hardships they endured during the 1950's and 1960's, and are still facing today. Many artists chose to highlight areas of justice and equality,and areas where issue still lies. The community greatly participated in the selection of murals, and the artists made sure to only draw what truly reflects everyone, hosting voting and many conversations. In regards to civic engagement, this movement to display a communities history, legacy, and current hardships strongly incorporates ideas of speaking out and participating in one's community. People were given a voice and many searched for their voice during the selection process, and the turn out reflects the active engagement from not just artists and organizations, but an abundance of citizens.

  • IsabellaK-pla
    2/18/2019 - 06:17 p.m.

    Artists around Atlanta GA. Have been commissioned to create murals, pertaining to civil rights, in the neighborhoods near the stadium where they plan to host the Superbowl. Atlanta faced many hard ships in the past, and is still struggling with civil rights to this day. Once the artists were chosen, they used the voices of the community to give input as to how the murals would speak for its citizens. Civic engagement is the basis of this entire article. The murals going back to the history of the city, as well as the artists going out to take all perspectives into account before creating their pieces of art, is just one example of their dedication to bettering and engaging in their community.

  • ElizabethG-pla
    2/19/2019 - 11:27 p.m.

    The article details artists who took part in creating the murals which are featured along the Atlanta football stadium. The intent behind putting the murals there was for them to be visible and impactful during the February 3rd Superbowl. The artists collaborated to design murals which depict and represent Atlanta's past roles in civic rights, roles which they are rightfully proud of. Together 11 artists set out to create 30 murals which showcased movements of change, both past, and present. The artists were civically engaged as they not only reflected on previous action but called out current action which seeks change and resolution. The artists used their voices as citizens to make a stance bolder than a sketch on paper. They created a marvel for the world to see and understand the world is not yet equal but rather justice and equality are still being pursued.

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