The city of Hapeville’s rich aviation history goes back to 1925 when Atlanta mayor Walter Sims signed the lease on an abandoned racetrack making it Candler Field, Atlanta’s first airport. Even in its early days, Atlanta’s airport was among the world’s busiest. So it’s no surprise that many Atlantans mentally link Hapeville to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. But if the Hapeville Arts Alliance has its way, you’ll also think of Hapeville as a center for the arts.
Here’s how David Burt, executive director of the Alliance, describes his consortium: “It’s a nonprofit organization founded over a decade ago to partner with the city to bring public arts and arts events to the community and to further the objectives of the Hapeville Arts Initiative.”
Their goal is to transform Hapeville into a recognized center for the arts. According to Burt, murals are a key part of the city’s artistic metamorphosis along with the performing arts center, sculpture and free art boxes. In partnership with the Hapeville Main Street program, the Alliance has invited Atlanta’s best muralists to make the city a street art hotspot.
1. Artist: Muhammad Yungai
Yungai’s flight-themed mural “Tuskegee Airgirl” (top) at the Hoyt Smith Recreation Center shows us a young Black girl in aviator’s attire dreaming big about her future. Yungai explained the story behind the mural in an Instagram post: “As a proud ‘girl dad’, it became very important that my daughters were ambitious in their dreams and were exposed to successful female role models. It is a little known fact that the brave and audacious Tuskegee Airmen were trained, substantially, by two amazing Black female aviators: Willa Brown and Mildred Hemmons Carter, both of whom were inspired by Bessie Coleman!”
2. Artist: Shannon Lake
Georgia native Lake is a muralist, designer, oil painter and photographer with four murals. In the alley behind the Performing Arts Center at 599 North Central Avenue, two of her murals feature mashups of works by Gauguin, Hokusai, van Gogh, Botticelli, Klimt and Magritte. The presence of these artistic luminaries helps to rebrand this backstreet as “Arts Alley.” On Virginia Avenue, Lake’s portrait of a leather jacket-clad aviator is a tip of the hat to J. C. Leyendecker, America’s most famous illustrator in the 1920s. “Coca-Cola Girl” on North Fulton Avenue commemorates the long-gone Hapeville Drug Company.
3. Artists: Lotus Eaters Club
The artists’ collective known as Lotus Eaters Club is a multi-talented creative dynamo. Member Mario “doit doit” Daniel is the primary artist behind two murals. He described “Our Lady of the Lotus Eaters” (found at 632 South Central Avenue) as follows: “Honestly I thought it just looked cool. A bunch of cartoon characters worshipping a nude woman appealed to me. If I had to give a deeper answer, then she represents the artistic muse, and the animal characters are each member of Lotus Eaters Club.” Collective member Helen Choi served as the model for the central character. Daniel also elaborated on his “Mischief Managed” mural at Jess Lucas Park, which features several whimsical characters: “It is basically me speaking to myself. I was thinking ‘wow I actually get to do this for a job?’ I’ve hacked the matrix of the life-work dynamic.”
4. Artist: Charmaine Minniefield
Minniefield is an arts administrator, activist and founder of the New Freedom Project in addition to being a multimedia visual artist and muralist. To make sure that the Black aesthetic is seen and the Black voice heard, Minniefield’s murals typically depict pioneering Black women who have impacted history. Her mural on the side of the Hapeville city hall facing Arts Alley is no exception — “Flowers Devine” features Marjorie Prothro, Hapeville’s first African American businessperson, looking out over a colorful background of flowers. Prothro owned a flower shop at 587 North Central Avenue.
5. Artist: Yehimi Cambrón
Cambrón is an activist, artist, teacher and recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals order (DACA). Her “We Give Each Other the World” mural soars eight stories high on the side of the InCity Suites Hotel. She interviewed many Hapeville residents to accurately represent their lives and views. Her artist’s statement summarizes this monumental work as follows: “’We Give Each Other the World’ is centered on the five portraits of children that represent a part of the great diversity of this community. Reaching for the sky and looking up, all with hopeful looks on their faces, the children are being elevated by the hands of adults who are working to give them a world that is worthy of them, encouraging them to be limitless in their hopes and dreams for the future.” Aviation subtly appears in this work in the form of airplanes in the background.
6. Artists: Whitney and Micah Stansell
This College Park based artistic power couple prevailed in a national artists’ call to revitalize the dilapidated pedestrian bridge over North Central Avenue. Whitney explained their goal for the artwork: “Our hope is that the viewer wants to interact with the work by climbing the stairs and making it to the top to enjoy the beautiful city views.” The artist also extolled the opportunities presented by this unique “canvas”: “We wanted the mural on the stairs to change dependent on where the viewer is standing (or driving). Lenticular shapes, colorful stripes and circles connect and disconnect as the viewer moves within the surrounding space.”
Stephanie Lloyd and Jeff Riggan’s contrasting murals in Arts Alley respectively feature an enigmatic greyscale abstract and a colorful natural scene. Lauren Pallotta Stumberg’s dancers float gracefully across the side of 583 North Central Avenue.
A call for artists recently went out for a new mural in the Hapeville Community Garden.