Arts

Atlanta Muralist Fabian Williams Highlights Civil Rights Heroes Through Art

Atlanta artist Fabian Williams was recently among a group of artists and concerned citizens named as recipients of ArtsATL’s Catalyst Award for Social Discourse for helping to halt the city of Atlanta’s mural regulations.
Atlanta artist Fabian Williams was recently among a group of artists and concerned citizens named as recipients of ArtsATL’s Catalyst Award for Social Discourse for helping to halt the city of Atlanta’s mural regulations.
Credit Myke Johns / WABE

Artists often take the times they are living in and reflect them back at us. The very topical Atlanta artist Fabian Williams is reflecting our times almost up to the minute. He was recently named as Atlanta’s best muralist by Creative Loafing, and you may have seen his portraits of Hosea Williams and Colin Kaepernick adorning walls around town.

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Williams was also recently among a group of artists and concerned citizens named as recipients of ArtsATL’s Catalyst Award for Social Discourse for helping to halt the city of Atlanta’s mural regulations. The controversial measure would have forced artists to go through an approval process in order to paint murals on private buildings. The measure would have been retroactive, and city officials told artists they had to apply for a modified certification process or their work could be subject to removal.

With that ordinance effectively off the city books, Williams feels free to paint at will.

“I started going to the West End and putting up murals where I saw dilapidated buildings,” he tells “City Lights host” Lois Reitzes. “Since there is no public art ordinance, I don’t have to go to the powers that be in order to do things that I feel that people like me need to see.”

For Williams, that means portraiture of civil rights heroes, old and new.

“I react to things that are in the zeitgeist,” he says, “I put up things up that I feel that black people or Atlantans would be proud of. Kaepernick would be a good fit for Atlanta because of our civil rights legacy. I would like to make the city a visual reminder of that.”

Williams says that he is focusing his efforts on the west side of town due to his concern for representation in communities of color.

“If you walk out the house and you see an image that’s like yourself raised above you, that’s larger than life, it gives you something to look up to, something to aspire to,” he says. “Everybody needs dignity.”

Williams has work in the upcoming gallery show “Propaganda,” which opens at the Facet Gallery on Oct. 6. He’ll also have work on display as part of the show “STAND: A Visual Dialogue on Justice” opening Sep. 28 at the Auburn Avenue Research Library.