Live the Legacy II at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Living Melody Collective

One of my favorite parts about being an artist is the flexibility to define my own work. I’m starting to think it’s a solid strategy to play and lean into the things that really get me excited.  Last year, I leaned into the joy of collaborating with other artists through my involvement with Living Melody Collective.

The  magic of surrounding yourself with other artists is that I know we can make anything out of nothing.
 From Left to Right: Angela Bortone, Haylee Anne, Jessica Caldas, Angela Davis Johnson and Danielle Deadwyler. This picture is from an early mural work session in Jessica's TCP Goat Farm Studio.

From Left to Right: Angela Bortone, Haylee Anne, Jessica Caldas, Angela Davis Johnson and Danielle Deadwyler. This picture is from an early mural work session in Jessica's TCP Goat Farm Studio.

Living Melody Collective is comprised of female-identifying Atlanta based artists including Haylee Anne, Jessica Caldas, Angela Davis Johnson, Danielle Deadwyler and myself. This combines a variety of backgrounds in painting, printmaking, dance, performance, and photography. The group also brings together four artist-mothers and one cat-mom.  

The collective was born out of a shared history of collaborating that stretches back to 2015 with a project called #3everyday. Together we’ve created artistic interventions that focus on civic engagement, awareness, and community impact.  Our most recent endeavor is a 32’ x 8’ mural for the Center for Civil and Human Rights.

The Application Process

Honestly, when we applied for this project we didn’t have a name for the collective. It was just this feeling that I had that we were official collaborators. Jessica sent the link for this contest with a week to go in a email that read, “Hey y'all, I know we're tight on time for this but I wanted to see if you were all still maybe interested in coming up with a collaborative project to apply to this with?  Deadline is the 10th, we could have some meetings next week to try and put something together-also totally understand if not. Just wanted to circle back on it.”

Over skype and google doc, we put together an application that repurposed sculptural elements that Jessica created in the shape of Atlanta’s twelve voting districts. The sculptures were from a two person show & voting initiative that her and Haylee had recently put on at Eyedrum called Goldsmack. I think we were not expecting to with the contest, so when Haylee got the congratulatory you got it email she forwarded it to us with this note, “YOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.”

Live the Legacy II Mural

This mural was commissioned by the Center for Civil and Human Rights to commemorate Dr. King’s work on civil and human rights  and fits into a larger series called Live the Legacy. This piece, the second in the series engages Dr. King’s legacy of targeting homelessness and exclusivity through the lens of current inequity and displacement crises in Atlanta.

It address our concern that Atlanta leads the nation in income inequality and ranks last in social mobility. It is an especially vital time to address the ugly shadow of gentrification and growing displacement in the City of Atlanta, given the onset of new leadership, and the multi-million dollar developments that stand to change the face of Downtown.

 The finished mural, installed at the Center for Civll and Human Rights

The finished mural, installed at the Center for Civll and Human Rights

The piece consists of eight 4” x 8” panels, and we added sculptural elements in the form of Atlanta’s 12 Council Districts. On top of each district, we blew up and abstracted a neighborhood from each district using city maps that classify the structures from poor to good. Our next layer was to paste on pairs of photographs from each district, one representing the past and the other the current day.

Over all of this we painting housing and people. Dr. King’s portrait is one the largest element in the piece, rendered in black and white. We painted a variety of housing,  including shotgun house, a condominium, single family homes, slums and Peachtree Pines shelter, which was shut down last year. Figures stream around Peachtree Pines and the condo, starting in color but soon fading to white gestural marks on black paint. Lastly, we started and ended the mural with text from Dr. King’s last book, “Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?”

The Beloved Community

The creation of this piece required of a collaborative effort much like what it will take to to build stronger and more equitable communities. We supported one another, and in turn, were at time supported. Much thanks to Krista Jones, who helped keep us company as well as provided some childcare, my husband who helped us papier mache. Thanks to Joe Moorman for the use of the Mosaic Art Supply warehouse, and the use of the woodworking tools, both assets which formed an invaluable resource.

 Jessica Caldas watching over three of the collective's five children

Jessica Caldas watching over three of the collective's five children

The intersectional quality of Living Melody Collective is our greatest strength, true diversity. With the forces of our individual life experiences coming together, we hope to create a multifaceted, thoughtful, and engaging piece that will spark conversation to further benefit those who have been displaced, and to proceed with an ethical development of the city that we love.

What I found in this work and with the separate community centered art project that was the Drum Major Project,  is that Dr. King he had a plan. For Dr. King, The Beloved Community was not a utopian goal. Rather, The Beloved Community was for him a realistic, achievable goal that could be attained by a critical mass of people committed to and trained in the philosophy and methods of nonviolence.

A community conversation

On August 17th, 2018 at 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm, there will be a reception and panel for our mural. Join the Center for Civil and Human Rights as we host a community conversation on the power of art in catalyzing conversations around civil and human rights.

From left to right: Haylee Anne, Angela Bortone, Danielle Deadwyler, Angela Davis Johnson and Jessica Caldas pose in front of their mural called Live the Legacy II