Drive along Cabbagetown’s Carroll Street and you’ll see vibrant eyes and brilliant smiles memorialized on the walls of Stacks Squares. The themed exhibit, Say Their Names, features portraits of 10 Black lives that ended at the hands of police. Stacks Squares is a rotating mural project curated by artist Austin “Blue” Richardson (aka Austin Blue) at the corner of Carroll and Tennelle streets under the Fulton Cotton Mill.
Blue has curated the Stacks Squares Mural Project for three years. It’s sponsored by the Cabbagetown Neighborhood Improvement Association. Power Haus Creative, an Atlanta organization dedicated to ensuring authentic culture is represented and that the voices of diverse artists are amplified, sponsored Say Their Names.
In past exhibits, Blue has opened applications for the 7 x 7-foot framed squares to artists eager to make a mark. This time, he says, he thought it important to use the project to increase awareness of police brutality and its effect on the Black community. “The goal,” he says, “is to humanize these victims and shed light on the need for police reform and accountability.”
- Rayshard Brooks (Atlanta, June 12, 2020).
- Janisha Fonville (North Carolina, 2015).
- Korryn Gaines (Maryland, 2016).
- Kathryn Johnson (Atlanta, 2006).
- Aiyana Jones (Detroit, 2010).
- Bettie Jones (Chicago, 2015).
- Atatiana Jefferson (Texas, 2019).
- Elijah McClain (Colorado, 2019).
- Daniel Prude (Upstate New York, March 23, 2020).
- Alton Sterling (Louisiana, 2016).
The Stacks Squares project has never before reflected a unified message or look. The portraits of faces young and old — a grandmother, a brother, a daughter, a friend — are all vivid reminders of lost lives and grieving families.
The all-Black roster of artists is intentional, Blue says. “It just makes sense. Who else is going to relate more to this specific subject than Black artists?”
Rome and Sofahood agreed to talk to ArtsATL about their panels.
Sachi Rome, an artist and art teacher, painted Korryn Gaines and Atatiana Jefferson. “I don’t march in protests,” she says. “I paint. Let us not forget a woman [Atatiana Jefferson] who was murdered in her own home by the police. Atatiana and so many others deserved so much better from America.”
SOFAHOOD painted her second- and third-ever murals for Say Their Names, choosing to honor Rayshard Brooks and Aiyana Jones. “I chose Rayshard,” she says, “because he deserves to be seen all over Atlanta in a way that keeps his spirit home.” She chose Jones, she says, “because when I see a passersby, I cannot assume that they care about what happens to young Black girls, but I will make sure they see them nonetheless.”
The Say Their Names murals will be up at Stacks Squares for several months until, as is customary, a new group of artists and murals is curated. Details on the project or to apply, go HERE.
ArtsATL’s street art column appears once a month and is done largely in collaboration with Art Rudick and his Atlanta Street Art Map.