ArtsATL > Art+Design > News: WonderRoot to place civil rights-themed murals across city for Super Bowl

News: WonderRoot to place civil rights-themed murals across city for Super Bowl

A 2012 street mural near Auburn Avenue by artist Sean Schwab depicts Atlanta civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis. A new project "Off the Wall" will bring many such murals to Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII. (Image courtesy Sean Schwab)

The hometown buildup to Super Bowl LIII, taking place February 3, 2019, at Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium, will feature a public arts program placing highly visible civil rights and social justice-themed murals all across the city.

Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium will host Super Bowl LIII. The city plans to use the arts to bring its history of social justice to the fore during the event. (Image courtesy Mercedes Benz Stadium)

Atlanta grassroots arts organization WonderRoot is teaming up with the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee to highlight Atlanta’s civil rights and social justice history through the creation of more than 30 street murals.

“Off the Wall: Atlanta’s Civil Rights and Social Justice Journey” is a collaboration between WonderRoot, the Atlanta Super Bowl Host Committee and the City of Atlanta, funded by the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.

“As we prepare our city for big events like the Super Bowl, it’s important that these events have a lasting legacy within our communities,” said Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms at a June 28 press conference announcing the project. “That’s what these murals are all about. To have something beautiful, with such a powerful story to tell, sprinkled throughout all of our communities really speaks to the strength of our arts and culture in the city of Atlanta.”

Chris Appleton, executive director of WonderRoot, said that the idea began in conversations with the Blank Foundation about what story Atlanta could tell about itself as it hosted the Super Bowl for the first time in 20 years. “There is no greater legacy than Atlanta’s contribution to the civil rights movement,” said Appleton. “We thought, ‘Let’s leverage that moment to further amplify the stories of struggle for change and justice in Atlanta and beyond.'”

“Off the Wall” will involve upward of 30 murals produced by artists from Atlanta and elsewhere including Shanequa Gay, Yehimi A. Cambrón Alvarez, Ernest Shaw, Brandan “B-mike” Odums, Sheila Pree Bright, Shawn Schwab, Gaia and L.E.O. Appleton said that the artists will work with partners that will host a series of community conversations regarding Atlanta’s civil rights past, present and future as the murals are conceptualized.

Sites for the murals are still being selected, and the murals’ subjects will ultimately be up to the selected artists, who will begin painting in the fall.

“One of the key pillars we focused on with Legacy 53 was civil rights and social justice,” said Atlanta Super Bowl host committee COO Brett Daniels. “Chris came to us with this mural project around the same time we were talking with our board of directors about how we could touch on this subject . . . We thought: what better way to celebrate the rich history and heritage of civil rights? This is not a story that can be told in other cities. . . . After the game ends, we’re going to have this lasting legacy that will stay in our communities a long time.”

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