“We are all together” is the message of a pandemic-crisis mural commissioned by the city of Brookhaven that is going up along MARTA’s Gold Line tracks on Peachtree Road.
Mayor John Ernst said the mural is based on an idea he had after seeing photos on Facebook of children creating stained-glass-style chalk art for Easter. The mural will have a similar stained-glass style with a circle in the center containing the “We are all together” message, he said.
“Last time I looked, it was just a big gray spot,” Ernst said, announcing the mural at an April 14 City Council meeting. “Hopefully it brings a little bit of joy to everyone.”
The city is paying artist Alison Hamil $2,000 for the mural, which she is painting on a MARTA retaining wall roughly halfway between Dresden Drive and Osborne Road. Hamil is a metro Atlanta artist whose mural work includes Buckhead’s Blue Heron Nature Preserve, where she is also artist in residence.
“I jumped all over it,” said Hamil in a phone interview. “Because of the pandemic, … most of my projects have been postponed or canceled, so I was available. And painting murals is my favorite thing to do. And actually I was looking for a way to get involved and help out and do something to help people.
“It’s been an awesome project so far. I’ve really enjoyed working with the city of Brookhaven,” she added.
Hamil lives in Marietta, but she has a local connection: Her parents, she said, are from the area and met while students at Cross Keys High School.
Ernst said the mural is intended to tie into the city’s pandemic theme of “Brookhaven Strong,” whose other arts-related programs included an April 2 national anthem sing-along and an art contest with a submission deadline of April 17.
The mural moved quickly from concept to execution. Ernst said that, after viewing some of the Facebook photos, “I thought, you know what, let’s do something. So I quickly drew something up, a concept.” He said council members and City Manager Christian Sigman approved of the idea. Ernst consulted Sally Epstein, a member of the city’s Arts Advisory Committee, to find an artist, according to Hamil.
The city did not get formal permission from MARTA to paint on its wall, Ernst indicated. “I just informed MARTA we’re doing it,” he said. The mural is intended to be temporary, he said at the council meeting.
MARTA chief of staff Melissa Mullinax spoke with Ernst about the mural. “MARTA welcomes Brookhaven’s temporary mural intended to lift spirits during this tough time,” Mullinax said through a transit agency spokesperson.
The city has long had a general concept of murals along the Gold Line retaining wall, which runs in segments for about 1.5 miles along Peachtree Road. A sticking point has been a metal fence atop the wall, which leaves streaks of rust that would spoil permanent artwork, according to city spokesperson Burke Brennan.
Ernst said the current mural is intended as a response to the pandemic, not a new effort toward decorating the entire wall.
“This is not about something larger,” he said. “We’ll see what comes out of it, if anything.”
–John Ruch and Ryan Kolakowski
Update: This story has been updated with comment from MARTA and Alison Hamil and with additional photos.