Heart of the Arts: Storefront murals and exhibitions bring diverse artistry to Midtown

Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya at work on “Let Me Share the Sky With You” at 10 10th Street.

On a cold Saturday afternoon in mid-January, artist Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya was putting the finishing touches on her mural, “Let Me Share the Sky With You,” in a display window at 10 10th Street in Midtown. The long, narrow corridor behind the windows wasn’t an ideal space to work, but Phingbodhipakkiya managed to transform the empty wall behind the windows into a powerful – and colorful – statement.

Phingbodhipakkiya finished her mural in January.

 “Let Me Share the Sky With You,” is the latest piece of artwork installed as part of the Midtown Alliance’s Heart of the Arts program. The multi-pronged initiative kicked off in January with a series of storefront exhibitions that showcase talents new to the district, support the local arts economy, activate currently vacant retail spaces and energize the street level experience for pedestrians.

For the initial phase of the program, Midtown Alliance staff engaged curator Neda Abghari to deliver the first round of temporary storefront exhibitions. Abghari, founder and executive director of The Creatives Project, selected artists Shanequa Gay, Chiomma Hall, Melissa Huang, Kaye Lee Patton, Fabian Williams, Kristan Woolford, and Phingbodhipakkiya.

“I am so deeply thrilled with Midtown Alliance’s commitment and investment to amplify the voices of our city’s creative talents,” Abghari said. “Although Midtown Alliance has installed public art before, Heart of the Arts seeks to be intentional in the way it supports Atlanta’s arts economy while also enriching the public sphere.”

Shanequa Gay’s “Secoriea’s Spirit Lives Here” at 805 Peachtree.

The artists’ installations are visible along Peachtree Street between 5th and 10th Streets, Peachtree Place, as well as on 10th Street, and will be on display through March.

Temporary installations are the springboard for the next phase of Heart of the Arts, which will focus on residencies at creative spaces in Midtown. Workspaces will be provided from six to 18 months and include a component of community engagement in the form of special programming and events featuring their work. 

This effort relies on strategic partnerships with commercial properties, businesses, and founding partners, including Atlanta History Center Midtown Campus, Coro Realty Advisors, Madison Marquette and Cafe Agora, among others. 

 “We are lucky to work in a district where supporting creativity is a core value,” said Ginny Kennedy, Midtown Alliance director of urban design. “Now more than ever, art is essential to elevate our mood and open our minds to new ideas.”

Phingbodhipakkiya, an Atlanta native, echoed Kennedy’s sentiments about art being essential in these difficult times.

Kaye Lee Patton’s “Re:Re” at 990 Peachtree.

“’Let Me Share the Sky With You’ is a meditation on the moment we’re in,” she said. “I wanted to show women from all walks of life imagining their dreams and imbue the mural with hope, comfort, and a sense of belonging.”

Phingbodhipakkiya’s father put Thai food on the map in Atlanta with his restaurant The King and I, so she grew up in a “rich world of flavor, color and culture,” which also informed her design for the mural. She’s now based in New York City where she’s in residence with the NYC Commission on Human Rights where she recently created a series of colorful “defiant ladies” on 76 bus shelters that seek to counteract anti-Asian bias. 

Fabian Williams’ “Imagination is More Important Than Knowledge” at 990 Peachtree.

Although she’s uncertain how long “Let Me Share the Sky With You” will be on display along 10th Street, Phingbodhipakkiya said she hopes other artists will respond to it. “I’d love to see dancers from the Atlanta Ballet or the Atlanta Chinese Dance Company perform a piece in front of the mural.” 

She praised Midtown Alliance for putting Heart of the Arts together and its selection of artists. “It’s an incredibly thoughtful and diverse group of voices coming together to express how artists are meeting this moment.”

For more about Heart of the Arts, visit midtownatl.com.