44 Murals Project brings together local artists to beautify Bankhead

This alien mural was Melody Thomas's first large-scale outside mural. (Courtesy of Melody Thomas)

The 44 Murals Project is a community undertaking that brought together local artists to create large-scale murals in West Atlanta. The creatives were given free rein to beautify a warehouse complex and express themselves through their artwork. “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes was joined by Deleon Blakely, the curator of the 44 Murals Project, along with artist and contributing muralist Melody Thomas.

Interview highlights:

On the selection of Bankhead’s Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway:

“For those who are not familiar with Bankhead, it is a notorious neighborhood in Atlanta,” Blakely said. “A lot of artists, rappers, musicians have come out of that neighborhood, but it’s very impoverished. So when we were able to acquire the property, the first thing that I wanted to do is treat it like the rest of Atlanta. You can go to Old Fourth Ward and see art plastered everywhere. You can go downtown Atlanta and see the same thing. You can go to the more established neighborhoods and see self-expression from different artists … and I realized that Bankhead was missing that.”

She added, “Not only were we looking to make this a community project, we also wanted the murals to speak on social change and cultural improvement, kind of like a, ‘Hey, we’re here too.’ Another special thing about the property is they’re building the BeltLine behind our warehouse, so within the next few years, it’s going to be a lot of traffic over there, and again, I wanted to be able to utilize this space to showcase people right here in Atlanta.”

Melody Thomas on her “skater alien” mural:

“I love everything with that kind of subject matter … universal, spiritual things, otherworldly beings, the universe, all that,” Thomas said. “So this is also my first mural, so I knew that I wanted to do something regarding Atlanta, the city of Atlanta, so I thought ‘ATLien….’ It’s an ATLien floating on his cloud of smoke.”

“I should say it’s my first outside mural,” Thomas added. “When I was a teenager … I used to do murals in friends’ rooms and my own room, stuff like that. I did a ‘Family Guy’ mural, and in mine, a SpongeBob … But other than that, I just do a lot of painting, canvas paintings, colored pencilwork, things like that. But after this, I had so much fun, so much fun. I really want to continue.”

How new spaces for expression might create opportunity:

“We have that property in Bankhead, and we also have a residential property not too far from the warehouse, and one of our muralists for the project was asked to come and do some artwork for the new residential property,” Blakely said. “As my partner continues to acquire properties … yes, more gigs, more opportunities for our muralists to come outside of that warehouse and do things and gain more clients. We’ve been in communication with Bankhead, and they have several new parks that they’ve been building, and with that, they want art. So again, more details to come, but we’re definitely gonna be expanding outside of the warehouse and giving our artists a lot more opportunities to create.”

“Slowly but surely, more people are asking for artists to either be a part of events or do side projects for other people,” Blakely explained. “If there is anybody listening who is interested in either doing a mural at our warehouse property or just wants information on how they can build their network and lock-in other gigs, I would suggest anybody listening to follow our Instagram.” 

The main display of the 44 Murals Project is located on the walls of 1060 Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway in Bankhead, Atlanta. Updates and more artwork from the 44 Murals Project can be found on their Instagram, @44muralsproject