BY ELLIE HENSLEY
One of Midtown’s artists-in-residence is bringing to life a building wall adjacent to 10th Street Park with a colorful new mural this month.
Jasmine Nicole Williams’ “On the Strip” combines Midtown’s past and present with particular emphasis on the counterculture movement of the 1960s. “The Strip,” located on Peachtree Street between 10th and 11th, was known as a place for people of all walks of life to gather.
“This area was where a lot of people came to exchange ideas and trade things with each other,” Williams said. “It was a really nice spot for people to commune.”
Williams shared with us how she conducted research for the mural and how her year as a Heart of the Arts Studio Resident helped grow her mural practice. Read more below.
A Place to Make Connections
To gather inspiration for the mural, Williams spent a few days at the Atlanta History Center looking through its archives for AJC articles and other information about Midtown from the 1960s through the 1990s.
This included research about The Great Speckled Bird, a counterculture underground newspaper whose offices were based in Midtown. The paper, published from 1968 to 1976 and 1988 to 1990, covering such issues as the Vietnam War, Black power, women’s liberation, gay rights and environmental issues.
A look across the decades at the same space where Williams' mural now resides. Notice the prior condition of the building facade and the lot. Credit: Atlanta History Center Kenan Research Center, Georgia State University Library of Digital Collections and Archives, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Once she had a design in mind, Williams drew the outline on paper, scanned it into a computer and added the color digitally. After the mural wall was primed, she projected the design onto the wall and traced it, and finally she and her assistant, Sayma Hassaim, filled it in.
The figure in the composition, referenced from photographs Williams previously took, represents the Midtown Everywoman.
“She’s representative of the working woman or the working person who is living here affecting her space while also being affected by her space,” Williams said.
She is surrounded by a variety of colorful patterns — one of which is representative of the Loews Hotel reflecting the sky, and another features a bird motif that is echoed across the woman’s shoulder.
“I really was just struck by all the different types of people who worked and lived in Midtown,” she said. “It was cool and interesting to me how this was such a space that invites you to walk, to be leisurely, to hang out on a bench and people-watch. It’s a place where people can always find something new or make a new connection.”
The mural will connect Midtowners with the rich history of the 10th and Peachtree area.
“Midtown continues to transform, but the neighborhood has maintained its identity as a cosmopolitan place that welcomes everyone,” said Lauren Radman, Project Manager of Urban Design and Placemaking at Midtown Alliance. “This artist honors this legacy and encourages Midtowners to continue being open-minded and inquisitive.”
A rendering of the forthcoming enhancements to 10th Street Temporary Park.
More Park Enhancements On the Way
Williams is one of six artists to be chosen for Midtown’s inaugural Heart of the Arts Studio Residency Program, which provided artists with studio workspaces inside commercial properties for a year. Williams’ current studio workspace is inside the 999 Peachtree Building.
When Williams began her residency in Midtown in Summer 2021, her body of work primarily consisted of woodcut relief prints. One of her goals as a Heart of the Arts Studio Resident was to grow her mural practice, and this is the third mural she’s completed over the past year.
“I’ve been slowly trying to grow as a muralist, and this is the first time I have taken on a project with no assistance other than from [Sayma],” Williams said. “Getting to know more about the business of doing murals has been really nice.”
Williams sourced everything from the scissor lift to the application materials from the ground up, things that are usually handled by a project manager.
The painting phase of the mural took about a week. It is intended to have a three- to five-year lifespan and will be maintained by Midtown Alliance and Williams. Just around the corner from the mural on the same building, you’ll find Midtown’s outdoor art gallery featuring large window graphics that showcase the work of other artists in Midtown Alliance’s Heart of the Arts program.
“On the Strip” was completed just as construction began on enhancements to 10th Street Park. The space will be redesigned into three outdoor “rooms:” one for games, one with a climbable structure, and one (the closest to the mural) as a small fenced dog park. The project is the result of a longstanding relationship with Dewberry Foundation; read more about it here.
“I look forward to seeing the juxtaposition of the park against all these bright colors once it opens up,” said Hassaim, a contemporary fiber artist who met Williams through mutual artist friends. “I think it will be really beautiful.”
Check out Williams’ new mural next time you’re walking down Peachtree, and if you’re interested in learning more about her work, sign up for her Bullet Journal Workshop, happening August 13.