By Mark Lannaman
The popular local Paint ‘N Sit ATL event held its largest gathering yet. An estimated 3000 people came together to create and celebrate art and build community.
The idea is simple: people gather for the free event, use the provided paint tools or bring their own, and paint with each other. Paint ‘N Sit ATL holds its gatherings in Old Fourth Ward Skatepark.
“Our goal is to create therapeutic art spaces that allow healing, connectivity and a safe space for people to come and be present with themselves and around other people,” said Elijah Wade, founder of the event and an artist who saw it transform from a small gathering to something attracting thousands of people today.
“I was doing small paints at my crib with my friends and just gathering art,” Wade said. With walls full of art, he says, he needed a way to share them with others without them having to pay steep art prices.
“So I took all the paintings I had to the park, made a sign out of some cardboard and was like, ‘If you like it you can make a donation for it or you can take it for free,’ “ said Wade. “A few people came and were receptive.
The following week, Wade says he began to wonder if people would be open to painting with him. So he made another sign that simply read along the lines of: ‘If you want to sit and paint in the park with me, it’s free’. Sure enough, people did.
Over time, more and more people started showing up. As it grew, Wade knew he had something special.
The event officially started in July 2021, months after Wade lost his job.
“I lost my job in January , so every weekend that I could find some money working during the week, I would get out and it just grew from there.”
It has since grown into a massive event attracting thousands of people. The cold and the allergy-inducing pollen have proven to be no match to the sensation, either; the last event saw over 3,000 people according to the organizers’ calculations. Wade has since begun making partnerships with local artists, including musicians, during the events.
“I’ve grown up here [in Atlanta], gotten to participate in a lot of different events, festivals, and things like that,” Wade said. “I think one thing that’s unique for us is I’ve never been to a festival where you can go and listen to dope artists but also create art and paint for free,”
Wade says that while the size of the event continues to increase, the purpose hasn’t become lost — and he’s not worried about it, either.
“I don’t have that fear of the intention or purpose of the event getting lost; I think more people are understanding it and that’s why more people are showing up. It kind of just speaks for itself,” Wade said.
He admits that even he couldn’t have predicted the success of the event, though he is excited to keep the momentum going.
“It is surreal; knowing that I just started with three of my family members and two of my friends, painting in the park, and now almost 3000 are all just sitting and painting together,” Wade said.
Flirting with the possibilities of what could be next, Wade is hopeful for bigger venues to accommodate more people — describing a version of the event at Mercedes Benz Stadium with people painting on the field while an artist plays onstage. The sky’s the limit, according to Wade.
For now, though, Wade is focused on taking the next step, into a larger park in the heart of Midtown.
“Big picture, I want to have a festival at Piedmont Park… a festival with multiple stages, everybody painting in the park. I feel like it’s possible within the next few months,” Wade said.
Wade hopes the event, beyond the benefits it provides for its participants, proves a point.
“Atlanta art is important, it’s impactful, its healing, its connecting… It’s uplifting our community at a time where a lot of things are destroying our community. We’re just trying to show how important art is to ourselves and to others,” Wade said.
Donations are a big help in making these events happen. Whatever donations don’t cover Wade comes out of pocket, but that’s been getting more difficult as the event continues to grow he admits.
Beyond donating, individuals can volunteer for time slots at each event to keep things running smoothly. Those interested can email email@example.com.
The next event will be Paint ‘N Sit’s free community festival on Earth Day, April 22. For more information, see the event’s page on Instagram.
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