New mural, ‘Seeds that are Planted,’ aims to inspire viewers in Atlanta’s Westside
By David Pendered
The new mural that aims to connect the “past struggles, sacrifices and triumphs of our ancestors” stretches 130 feet along Joseph E. Boone Boulevard, welcoming visitors and residents to Atlanta’s historically black Vine City neighborhood.
Titled The Seeds that are Planted, the mural intends to inspire and motivate viewers in an area surrounded by Atlanta’s most concentrated urban renewal project. The transformation was sparked by construction of Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Mural artist Joseph McKinney intended his work to inspire and motivate viewers. The artistic direction for the mural described the project in these terms:
- “Imagine one continuous line, connecting the past struggles, sacrifices, and triumphs of our ancestors to our present-day reality. We have a duty to not only honor them, but to capitalize off of the legacy.
- “Leaders of all different backgrounds have planted seeds (Values of hard-work, community, education, and inclusion). Some of which they weren’t able to see grow.
- “We have to cultivate these seeds and ensure their growth across generations. In doing so, we can create a world where we learn for the mistakes of the past, love all, and embrace the many differences that make us unique.”
The mural has its work cut out.
The flurry of recent philanthropic attention follows decades of oversight and flooding of the Proctor Creek basin related to the large impervious surfaces of the Gulch, according to the 2015 health impact assessment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Gulch includes the former Georgia Dome, Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta Federal Center and CNN headquarters, according to the report.
The area’s population declined by 15 percent, from 2000 to 2010, as crime and insecurity led to, “disinvestment and movement out of the area,” according to the EPA’s report. Stadium traffic added to the sense of despondency, it observed.
That’s not the case today.
The area has become such a vortex of development interests that it now has the same type of zoning protections in place in hot spots including Midtown, Buckhead, Memorial Drive and Historic West End/Adair Park. The Atlanta City Council voted Feb. 3 to create the English Avenue Special Public Interest District.
Boone Boulevard itself is being remade. Drainage is a central issue. Along with the streetscape projects now being built, the nearby Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park has an underground water storage system that’s to control up to 3.5 million gallons a year of stormwater runoff that otherwise would flood the area, officials observed at a groundbreaking in 2018.
Atlanta City Councilmember Antonio Brown, who presented the mural in a dedication on Jan. 27, said in a statement the artwork intends to share an uplifting message with the community.
“This mural is a beautification project for our community that’s aimed at providing a strong sense of pride and inspiration in our district,” Brown said. “When people walk by and see this, I know they will feel more hopeful and empowered. Although this is a distressed area, it’s clear that when we work together and feel optimistic about the future, we can fulfill our dreams and make a difference. This mural will help strengthen that perspective and be a true source of encouragement and comfort as we can continue to make tremendous progress in our community.”
Sponsors included the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs, Park Pride and Georgia Power.
The mural is large – 22 feet high and 130 feet, according to the city’s request for 10 assistants to help McKinney complete the project.
Five panels trace the artist’s plan for commemorating moments in history. Two figures in history are honored with an individual panel – Joseph E. Boone, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and served as one of King’s lieutenants; and former Atlanta City Councilmember Ivory Lee Young, Jr., who tenure spanned the area’s transition from blight to renewal.
A collection of 29 murals are installed in a wall directly across the street from The Seeds that are Planted. This installation portrays sights in and around the area in a concept by Jannsen Robinson and Brandon Lewis. Robinson was the painter with assistance from folks in the neighborhood. The project was sponsored by the Arthur M. Blank Foundation, Georgia Power and Antioch Baptist Church North, according to the commemorative plaque that contains a legend of the murals.
The block where these images appear line the road on the west side of Northside Drive. The road at this junction changes names that honor a former mayor, regarded as a champion of civil rights, and a minister who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. The names, respectively, are Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard and Joseph E. Boone Boulevard.