Introduction: Murals, according to Google:
- Traditionally beautify public and private spaces by adding splashes of color and meaning to bare walls
- Record and memorialize historical events
- Become a medium for political or social commentary over time
- Provoke and inspire present and future populations with important messages, symbolism, and even analysis.
Murals create teachable moments by visually identifying what is important to the community – our values, virtues, and accomplishments that influence people’s minds, feelings, and hopes.
Example of influence murals can have.
In 1964, Dr. Arnold Heller, Ra’anana Chair, graduated from Weequahic High School in Newark, NJ. Constructed in 1933, Weequahic, in 1937, benefitted from Works Projects Administration (WPA) artists adorning the main entrance with two affecting murals.
Students entering looked left and saw Robert Treat and his band of Puritans from Connecticut in 1666 negotiating with local Leni Lenape and Weequahic tribal leaders to purchase land that would become the City of Newark. The message was that Newark and New Jersey had long, rich colonial and historical underpinnings. The many previous generations had bequeathed us a strong, productive state and it was our responsibility to make a bountiful place richer and better.
Students looked right and observed a portrait of sturdy mid-19th Century Newark leather goods workers, sea port stevedores, hearty brewers and nascent union activists. The message received to mid-20th Century students was that Newark and New Jersey were important industrial centers that provided us a solid economic path forward and that our high school was the vehicle of upward social mobility for a striving student population.
The proof is that between 1934 – 1964, Weequahic graduated more doctors, dentists, lawyers, and Ph. D.’s than any other school in the country. 85% of the Class of ‘64 went to college, the rest into trades or military. As a result, Weequahic in 1964 was the fourteenth best high school in America and has today the largest alumni association in the country, many who love to share in the weekly newsletter how the murals inspired them to excel in a special learning place.
Proposal: Develop a series of murals starting with the ASCC.
Atlanta City Hall exhibits many fine pieces of art, interesting artifacts, official photos of political leaders and bodies, important messages to citizens but frankly is a bit sterile. Adding a series of murals would bring attractive, informative splashes of color to a mostly beige interior and inform visitors about groups and events that have flown under the radar and deserve recognition for their contributions.
Atlanta and Georgia, in the 1960’s, saw global interdependence forming and began educating citizens that internationalization was the wave of the future. Mayor Ivan Allen started a sister city relationship with Salzburg, Austria in 1967; Mayor Sam Massell partnered with Montego Bay, Jamaica, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1972.
Today, because of that brave, forward-thinking strategy that Mayors Maynard Jackson, Andrew Young, Bill Campbell, Shirley Franklin, and Kasim Reed also employed, there are seventeen sister cities spread across the globe engaging Atlanta in friendship, trade, and joint programs and projects. For five decades, volunteers have chaired and supported these committee’s efforts to connect and enrich our city without most fellow citizens awareness and / or financial support.
It’s time for Atlantans to take notice and learn of a commission operating selflessly on their behalf. It’s also necessary because the ASCC is aging fast, Sister Cities International isn’t growing, and young replacements must be recruited – who will fill these roles?
An ASCC mural mirrors Atlanta’s internationalization the past fifty years and is an opportunity for Mayor Dickens to reaffirm sister cities commitments by showing that the Commission and international affairs are important to the City of Atlanta going forward. Citizens visiting Atlanta City Hall and observing the mural, might become future ASCC chairs and members.
This is a fairly simple mural to paint – assemble a collage of our sister cities skylines or other symbolic representation. The artist – who painted the coffee cup mural on Salcedo Chair Victor Ramirez’s Golden Drops Café wall – grasps this concept.
Consideration of Murals for other local Atlanta treasures that contribute mightily but may fly under the public’s radar.
Atlanta University Complex: Spelman, Morehouse, Clark Atlanta, the Seminary and Morris Brown Colleges
The extraordinary contribution by the AU treasure in Atlanta’s economic, social, political, and cultural development is incalculable. Given the recent local growth of IT and FinTech, the AU complex as an economic asset may be more valuable than ever.
Atlantans should be reminded of the rich role AU complex graduates have played in our history and the professions – politics, education, business, healthcare, media and the arts. Each year, a new class of future leaders graduates and fuels the city with their energy, ideas, and hopes.
The AU complex experience is so far reaching in scale and scope that capturing it in a truly representative mural could be very challenging.
Theme #3: Forward Atlanta Campaigns reflected the city’s traditionally audacious nature – that it should be growing faster to become the premier city of south. Subject should describe the role that Mayors Allen to Dickens played and also include growth of the airport, the great corporations headquartered here, the civic and civil rights leaders and organizations related initiatives that jointly helped realize the desired goals of mutual peace, progress and prosperity.
Other mural themes may include celebrations of the Atlanta Public Schools and greatest educators, a mosaic of Atlanta’s most successful cultural contributors; artists, filmmakers, musicians, writers, media members.
A series of murals would be a terrific legacy for the Dickens Administration; also, illustrate why ambitious Atlanta has mostly enjoyed steady growth the past 185 years. Murals can serve as tried-and-true road maps to an even better future.
Atlanta has been an open city that’s welcomed countless people with their talents and dreams for an opportunity and better life. We have come from across the state, nation, and globe to help build our vibrant and beautiful city – the diverse Atlanta Sister Cities Commission is a model.
Let us affirm the Atlanta spirit with murals that recognize past contributions and help us to better understand our past, interpret the present, and predict the future of the great Southern metropolis.