Art of the Movement: Art and artists elevating the message of equality, racial justice

As demonstrations in support of the Black Lives Matter movement continue, we showcase a selection of art and artists who are playing a vital role in elevating the message of equality and racial justice around Intown. This is an expanded version of the feature in our July 2020 issue with more text and photos.  (Text by Collin Kelley and Clare S. Richie)

 

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In honor of Juneteenth, two Atlanta artists and Emory University alumnus, Andre Thompson and Fahamu Pecou, created a paint-by-numbers style community mural project at Carver Neighborhood Market, steps from where Rayshard Brooks was killed by police on June 12. As protests continued, community members stopped by to work on the project. The event was sponsored by the Emory College Center for Creativity and Arts. (Photos by Arvin Temkar)


ABV Gallery (abvatl.com) artists Tommy Bronx and Ash “Wolfdog” Hayner installed a new mural at the intersection of Irwin and Randolph Streets in the heart of the Old Fourth Ward. The gallery, located on nearby Auburn Avenue, released this statement about the work: “As artists, creators, humans, and community-members, it is our responsibility to create work that fuels positive change and reflects this important time. We are committed to listening, learning, growing, and amplifying the voices of BIPOC artists, activists, and people. We can all do better.” (Photo by Jacob Nguyen)

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The Atlanta BeltLine has become a canvas for those fighting racial injustice and the message of Black Lives Matter. Giant letters spelling out the movement appeared along the Eastside Trail just south of Ponce City Market. As the BeltLine became a regular site for marches, murals, street art, and flyers began appearing along the trail as a reminder of the movement. (Photos by Jacob Nguyen; Atlanta BeltLine/John Becker)


Artists Ndirika Ekuma-Nkama and S.A.W (aka Sharanda Wilburn, pictured center) are two of the 30 artists selected by nonprofit ArtPop Street Gallery (artpopstreetgallery.com) to have their work amplified and elevated on billboards across Atlanta. Ekuma-Nkama, a fashion illustrator and professor at Clark Atlanta University, said her billboard art (top) was a tribute to the city with a fashion twist. “My mom informed my love of fashion and art,” Ekuma-NKama said. “I’ve been drawing since I can remember. Being able to combine art and fashion is a dream come true.” S.A.W, known for her portraits of celebrities and local officials like Queen Latifah and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, said her “color wheel eyes” billboard (bottom) was a statement on how she views the world. S.A.W began drawing at age 8 and graduated from AIA in 2017. For more visit ndirika.com and sawarts.com.


Grady High School senior Zola Sullivan is using her art to promote activism in the current movement for long-overdue racial justice. “At first, it’s overwhelming, especially as a person of color,” Sullivan said. “This time of things getting to their boiling point and people really having to decide what side they’re on. It shows that we’re actually getting to a place where we might actually be able to take a step forward into the right direction and people might actually care enough to participate in that step forward and that brings me a lot of hope.” In this spirit, Sullivan created BLM (Black Lives Matter) and ACAB (All Cops are Bastards) prints on vintage clothing, accessories and jewelry. She sells her items through her Instagram account, @w4terinmywings, donating all the proceeds, initially to the Black Visions Collective who then redirected her to the Center for Black Equity.  So far, she has donated nearly $900 in total. In addition to the message on her creations, Sullivan’s selection of vintage clothing was also intentional. “I primarily like to shop at thrift stores, so I am not feeding into the huge problems that the clothing industry creates by overproducing clothes,” Sullivan said.  Sullivan’s offerings are a culmination of her journey as a young artist. “My grandmother taught me how to sew when I was about five years old and I would make little outfits for my dolls and make jewelry,” Sullivan said.  “I learned about prints at Grady my Freshman year.” Sullivan credits her Drawing and Painting teacher, Mr. Brandhorst, with teaching her about artists not typically included in high school curricula. For example, Sullivan resonated with Danish artist Carl Krull’s use of lines in drawing and sculptures – and his versatility. “I’m very all over the place with my art. I like printing, sewing, embroidery, drawing and ball point pen,” Sullivan said. “Brandhorst really lets you discover the types of mediums and artists you might like. His classes really helped me get out of my shell and really discover who I was as an artist.” Brandhorst is proud that the Grady Art Program has helped Sullivan on her artistic journey. “Zola has been producing increasingly powerful pieces over the past year,” said Brandhorst, Grady High Schools Fine Arts Chair.  “She is intensely thoughtful and her recent activist work is a fantastic expansion. I look forward to her evolution as an artist and activist as all these world events continue to disrupt and change our lives. I believe that it is artists who will envision and implement the new normal.” Beyond her art, Sullivan urges the public “to support youth black voices and to listen to them and to uplift them because we are the future and we are the future of our community too.”

 

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