Public art is a community effort – scenes from the creation of the King Memorial Station mural with artist Fahamu Pecou, community members, WonderRoot staff and volunteers.
“Rise Above” is the first of four murals that will be created by Pecou at Atlanta MARTA stations as part of En Route, a public art project coordinated by WonderRoot, an Atlanta-based community arts center. En Route is a partnership between MARTA, WonderRoot, Fulton County Arts & Culture and the TransFormation Alliance. Future public art projects are planned at the Oakland City, Hamilton E. Holmes and Vine City MARTA stations.
The project is funded by a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with Fulton County Arts and Culture, and additional funding from Wells Fargo, the Ford Foundation, Georgia Council for the Arts and the Atlanta Regional Public Art Program.
The goal of En Route is to create engaging, meaningful, high-quality public art that celebrates Atlanta’s neighborhoods, improves the experience of transit riders and enlivens the environment of MARTA’s transit stations. For that reason, engaging the community surrounding each MARTA station is a vital part of the development process for the En Route projects.
To develop the King Memorial project, WonderRoot held multiple community meetings. Pecou met with the neighborhood NPU, En Route stakeholders, an advisory committee, residents and business owners in the neighborhood to work out a concept that would resonate with the King Memorial neighborhood.
In addition, WonderRoot staff and volunteers went to the King Memorial MARTA station to survey transit riders, and Pecou held a community photo shoot to capture images of neighborhood residents as models for his art.
Through conversations and feedback, agreement was reached on an image that reflected both Pecou’s focus on concerns around contemporary representations of black masculinity as well as the neighborhood’s desire to highlight their historic connection to Martin Luther King, Jr.
The finished work is an arresting image of a young black man leaping into the air with the words Rise Above emblazoned across the MARTA station wall. The phrase is taken from a quote by King: “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
In speaking about his work in ArtsATL, Pecou said: “Art has always been transformative. It is not merely a reflection of our times and experiences; it also has the capacity to redirect us. As artists, it is imperative that we use our creativity to say the things that words do not easily convey….After all, in the future, historians will tell what happened, but artists will tell how it felt.”