Every summer since 2011, Atlanta muralists gather beneath the September sun in Cabbagetown for a live street-art event. It’s called Forward Warrior, and it happens a stone’s throw from the Krog Street Tunnel and the Atlanta BeltLine. The daylong art party, held September 14 this year, attracts pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, fans and the curious to a half-mile stretch of Wylie Street.
Forward Warrior was created by Atlanta artist Peter Ferrari, who felt compelled to bring together the creative community for an interactive art experience. Through a partnership with the nonprofit Cabbagetown Initiative Community Development Corp., he has created one of Atlanta’s more highly anticipated annual art events.
When asked sometime ago about the “Forward Warrior” name, Ferrari said: “Years ago, a friend of mine and I would just say it to each other when were were getting down about things or going through hell. We were like ‘Forward Warrior, just keep going.’”
The Forward Warrior Mural Project lets spectators get up close and personal with the artists and the artwork-in-action. They can meet the artists and watch as a splash of paint here and a few bold strokes there become a finished mural. “It’s really an act of appreciation for public art, both by the artists and the community,” says Ferrari. “I get some of the best artists in town all collaborating publicly.” Even though the Georgia heat turned the day into an oven, you’d be hard-pressed to find happier faces than those who attended this event.
The 2019 Forward Warrior was diverse as ever, with women and people of color accounting for nearly half of the 20-plus featured artists. Ferrari hasn’t been shy about using his platform to promote social change and equality. Forward Warrior routinely provides space for up-and-coming artists who may not otherwise have an opportunity to paint in public, and he takes great care to curate a group that mirrors metro Atlanta’s diversity.
Participating muralists have varied backgrounds, from street art and illustration to fine-art oil painting. This year’s roster included such names as Lela Brunet, @doitdoleague, Erin Nicole Henry, Christina Kwan, Liz Webb (@lillawebb), @oofster, Sanithna Phansavanh (Sanitha), Janice Rago and Ferrari, among others.
Henry put her surrealist portrait paintings on a big wall for the first time at last year’s Forward Warrior and returned this year. In the interim, she’s painted murals as part of the OuterSpace Project event series (happening next October 14–19). Sanithna joined other Forward Warrior alumni to paint a piece inspired by linocut prints and the book The Alchemist. Event organizers, Sanithna says, “provide a platform where artists and neighbors can engage each other. They help to make such a special community here in Atlanta.”
TO THE FUTURE AND BEYOND:
This year’s murals, seen along the length of Wylie Street between Carroll and Pearl streets, should be viewable for the next 12 months — until Forward Warrior returns in 2020 for its 10th-anniversary season.
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ArtsATL’s street art column appears every other Thursday and is done in collaboration with Art Rudick and his Atlanta Street Art Map. We’d love to hear from you too. See something we should know about? Have an opinion? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org.