Not too long from now, Atlantans will have four new murals to appreciate as they trek through various corners of Atlanta’s urban landscape. Four Coats Neighborhood Mural Project, the brainchild of Beep Beep gallery’s James McConnell, has pulled together four Atlanta galleries to curate a collection of public murals.
As quoted on Four Coat’s website, the project’s intentions are to increase interest in public art by simultaneously accessing and promoting the Atlanta art scene. With the aim of creating a geographically diverse program that would span many of Atlanta’s main artistic centers, McConnell reached out to Whitespace, Get This! and Marcia Wood galleries.
On the phone Sunday evening, McConnell explained that his original proposal only involved Beep Beep gallery until Monica Campana, of Living Walls fame, offered to get McConnell in touch with the City of Atlanta, and encouraged him to involve other galleries.
“I asked the three other galleries if they were interested, and they were, which is awesome. I picked galleries that were geographically diverse; they were all part of different arts communities. I picked galleries I knew and really respected.”
The four galleries represent four of Atlanta’s main art hubs: Whitespace in i45, Get This! Gallery on the Westside, Marcia Wood Gallery in Castleberry Hill, and Beep Beep Gallery in Midtown. Each gallery was tasked with locating an appropriate wall and commissioning one of their artists—who must be a city of Atlanta resident—to create a mural.
The galleries were motivated to choose artists that related both the spirit of the gallery and their neighborhood. Susan Bridges of Whitespace selected her neighbor Tommy Taylor, she explains, for his: “energetic and cutting edge abstract work” as well as his previous experience with painting murals. Marcia Wood chose the Southern Sunday Art Revival collective because, “…[the] collaboration of multiple individuals working together reflected the idea of public art, and because the nature of their work would be perfect for creating a successful, dynamic, and engaging mural.”
The overall project is still in progress. Across a series of windows in Castleberry Hill, Southern Sunday Art Revival has installed a barrage of color; eyes,tigers, and other oddities invite the observer to stand and stay a while until every last scene is taken in. Andy Moon Wilson took hold of the wall enveloping the parking lot in front of Get This! Gallery to create a series of the most intricate pagoda-styled buildings ever to occupy the space. With a bright blue background, Wilson’s masterfully detailed architectural renderings now teeter alongside a strand of parked cars. Whitespace’s wall and Beep Beep’s wall, which will feature the neon creaturettes of Lucha Rodriguez, are still pending approval.
Although Four Coats was originally slated to be a series of murals, funding from the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs has so far limited the project to only four murals for this year. There is hope that if the murals are successful the city will allow the project to expand to other vacant walls around Atlanta.
While speaking with McConnell, I noted that the artists chosen to install these four murals are not typically associated with large scale, public paintings. I may have even used the word street art, but McConnell was quick to stop me and ask for clarification on whether I meant public art on the street or graffiti.
“Every time I mention [Four Coats] people talk about graffiti and I don’t see what this has to do with graffiti. How did this become such a lump term for any kind of public engagement with paint? They’re different perspectives.”
Aside from the obvious positives that go along with beautification and the increase of local-art-awareness, the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs may be more interested in a set of studies showing that public murals may decrease the prevalence of unsanctioned tagging. Murals are often used in communities to glorify neighborhood history or expound collective ideals in a figurative way. Four Coats is not that type of project.
“The intention was to introduce work that isn’t necessarily tied to a neighborhood mural like a bunch of people holding hands or a graffiti piece.” explains McConnell.
Perhaps what is most interesting about Four Coats is that these aren’t depictions of people skipping through fields, or doves soaring through the air: These murals are essentially large scale examples of these artists’ work, unburdened by imposing social agendas. Sure the murals engage with one another in that they are murals and share a common logo, but overall, the artists were free to consider their projects individually instead of being shackled to a common narrative or message. Each of the artists selected for this project tend to work in styles that allow the viewer to make their own interpretation (or non-interpretation). As Susan Bridges wrote of Taylor’s mural: “The wall where Tommy’s piece is to be located is a busy corner where there is a lot of foot traffic: it can, and will be seen from several angles. It is an abstract piece that can be interpreted, or simply appreciated for its color and form.”
McConnell is assuming that Atlanta viewers are mature enough to appreciate commissioned murals that don’t spell out hopes written in heart strings. It will be interesting to eavesdrop on the conservations of passersby once the projects are all unveiled. Whatever the case, Atlanta will soon be graced with four more large works of art outside the ‘white box’ of the traditional gallery space. One can only hope that this effort to engage Atlanta residents will prove successful.
You can keep up with the Four Coats Neighborhood Mural Project on their website. While the final date has yet to be announced, there will be a kick-off party to celebrate the murals’ completion.