If you’ve been to the Beltline, Castleberry Hill, Cabbagetown, or the Krog Street Tunnel, then you have experienced the beauty of Atlanta street art. But there is so much more to it than meets the eye, which I discovered during Spruill Center for the Arts’ most recent class, ‘Exploring Street Art in Atlanta,’ led by Brave Nu Ventures.
Exploring Atlanta Street Art
Day 1 –
Our leader, Rachel Griner, Founder of Brave Nu Ventures, kicked off the class by explaining there are distinctions between street art, graffiti, and public art. Then we met Dr. Leigh Elion, Director of Emory’s Oxford College Writing Center, and urban art scholar (@youratlantafriend.) Through her talk, “3.5 Ways to Look at Street Art in Atlanta,” we discovered that what we see on a wall isn’t just a piece of art, but an instrument through which communities can connect, examine their roots, envision their future, and engage in conversations about diversity and growth.
Day 2 –
We gathered in front of Peters Street Station, and by happy chance, the manager, Stretch, was there and invited us in. He gave us a tour of the building, which dates up to 200 years old. We enjoyed the first art exhibition by Taz The Artist, met the multi-talented tattoo artist Miya Bailey, and found inspiration from the many creators in the space. Afterward, Claudia Hart, Founder of ATL Street Art Tours (@streetarttours_atl) took us on a walking tour to examine street art, learn about the artists, and decipher the messages behind them. She opened up the discussion to talk about diversity and the experiences of other communities. Along the way, we met various vendors and business owners, all happy to engage and share what they do.
Day 3 –
Our next class introduced us to Antar Fierce, a graffiti-style writer, teacher, and aerosol artist. He led us through the eras of graffiti and how changes influenced them in-laws, economics, music, and culture. It was fascinating to learn that it began with African-American kids in Philadelphia in the ’60s! Antar is a historian – check out his Style Writing Preservation Society or his commentary in the documentary, “Rolling Like Thunder”. He also runs a non-profit, Right Track Program, which provides arts programming for young people incorporating the culture of Hip Hop to help with self-expression, growth, and life skills.
Day 4 –
We walked a mile from Ponce City Market to the Beltline for class with Malcolm Turpin of Malcolm Creations (@graffiticlass.atl.) Letting us loose with spray paint, he showed us how to hold the can to create shapes and shading. He demonstrated different techniques, and ways to put pressure on the can, and taught us basic shapes. We played tic-tac-toe, created masks on the wall, and came up with our signatures, or “tags.” It was great fun to paint in a public space – plus Antar Fierce joined us with his daughter and stole the show with his work!
Day 5 –
Our final speaker was Aysha Pennerman (@artbyayshapen) graphic designer, muralist, and artist who also leads community projects, beautification, and outreach through her non-profit, Impactful Brush. She shared her experience of creating large collaborative murals for artists of all levels, as well as how they can assist with public safety, or “tactical urbanism.” In anticipation of our class mural project, she gave us a template to establish team roles, measure our space, decide on a theme, and put together a sketch.
Day 6 –
This experience culminated with a sidewalk chalk mural at Spruill, with Aysha standing by for support. We broke into 2 teams and split the sidewalk in half. Team One drew water and words and movement, and Team Two drew trees and people and a big bright moon. While our visions contrasted, somehow there was a synergy. I think we were surprised by the success of the result! We were sad to part ways, because we had all been part of something exceptional, and were better people for it.