Artist R. Land created a new iteration of his iconic “Pray for ATL” artwork to encourage his fellow Atlantans to wash their hands during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Almost immediately, “Wash for ATL” became a social media sensation.

Soon after, R. Land was contacted by the the United Way of Greater Atlanta about using “Wash for ATL” to raise money for the organization’s Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response & Recovery Fund in partnership with the Community Foundation to support those most vulnerable to the economic and health-related impacts caused by the pandemic. In just a few days, T-shirts, mugs, and stickers were created and sales, at this writing, have already topped $3,000, according to United Way Marketing Director Sara Fleeman.

The “Wash for ATL” artwork by R. Land.

You can order a t-shirt, in collaboration with BangOn Custom T-Shirts, at this link. Stickers and mugs can be purchased at this link.

The fund was announced March 17 with The Community Foundation committing $1 million and United Way of Greater Atlanta contributing $500,000 to seed the fun. In the days following, the Coca-Cola Company, Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, and the Arthur M. Blank Foundation each donated $5 million to the fund in support. Other current funders include the City of Atlanta, Truist Foundation, Wells Fargo, Global Payments, The Primerica Foundation, WXIA-TV, The TEGNA Foundation, and Novelis.

R. Land said modifying his original praying hands by adding soap suds was a “no-brainer” and his whimsical way of offering a public service announcement to the city. He posted “Wash for ATL” on social media and immediately started getting messages and emails asking for T-shirts and other goods featuring the image. “United Way reached out at the same time, so it made sense and partnering with them is for a good cause.”

Intended as street art, R. Land created the original “Pray for ATL” hands in the early 2000s. It hung in his studio for a couple of years before he decided to put it out in the community. “Pray for ATL” appeared in the Moreland/DeKalb Avenue overpass near Little Five Points in 2004 and an iconic image was born.

R. Land said he created “Pray for ATL” out of his concern that the city was becoming “less soulful” –  its independent businesses, clubs, and artists being consumed by commercial, corporate culture.

And while some of his fears have come to pass, R. Land, a Florida native, remains in love with his adopted city. He also loves how “Pray for ATL” has come to represent the city and that viewers – religious, spiritual, agnostic, and atheist – have found special meaning in the artwork.

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.