With a city filled with mural artists, one must wonder how Joe Dreher, aka JoeKingAtl became one of the most active and employable street artist in Atlanta in less than two years. Once you know his story, there is no question the instinct to survive and his love of family, have been the driving forces behind his fast climb to success. Joe had shut down his architecture firm in 2008 because of the recession. Soon after, he started pulling away emotionally from his family and found himself in a deep depression. When his son’s teacher suggested they participate as volunteers with Living Walls as way to reconnect with Alex, his wife, Treasure didn’t give either one of them choice. She made sure they were on a Living Walls site supporting the artists the next day.
This experience for Joe and Alex started a course of healing. They continued to volunteer with other art organizations and growing their relationship. In 2014, when Alex was 16 they created a mural together in Cabbagetown. When Joe speaks of this time in his life, it’s very powerful. “In a way, Street Art saved my life. It got me out of a depression, it gave me back my relationship with my son and family, connected me to a community of artists. So, for me, I really feel indebted to it”, says Dreher.
Soon after the mural was installed in 2014, the phone started ringing. As a seasoned businessman, Dreher was able to respond to RFP’s, provide accurate renderings and deliver projects on time and within budget. This has certainly given him an edge in a city with equally talented and worthy artists.
Recently, the High Museum of Art commissioned him to paint a mural along Ponce de Leon to promote the Basquiat exhibit. A signature element of Joe’s work is a 3 prong crown. Basquiat also used a crown, and Joe’s symbolism was inspired by Basquiat’s use, which was showing approval of other artists’ works. “I use the crown as a way to elevate people and celebrate the significance of everyone”, says Dreher. There is a pyramid shaped pile of crowns painted at the base of the base. This gives visitors at the mural a chance to get a photo with a crown, no matter how tall or short they may be
Our Street Art Bicycle Tour explores a number of Joe’s murals. When possible, we visit him on site at installations around town. To learn more Joe’s work go to josephdreher.com.
Great news, y’all, Bicycle Tours of Atlanta will soon be launching a brand new tour… and it’s all about street art. To help us kick off the tour, on June 11, we’ll roll into the fifth annual Forward Warrior event in Cabbagetown. Forward Warrior is an amazing live painting performance event that brings together artists and communities to create large scale murals.
Forward Warrior began in 2011 by Atlanta-born Peter Ferrari, and about 12 other artistic friends. For the first two years, artists would rather at Melvin Gallery in the Old Fourth Ward along the Beltline for a performance art party.
Friends invited friends to come out for the experience and word of this event spread through social media.
“It was more about entertainment and giving people an opportunity to connect personally with the artists they saw on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and actually seeing them do what they do and then giving them an opportunity to buy art at an affordable price,” Ferrari said.
By 2013, Forward Warrior was invited by the Castleberry Hill community to paint in their neighborhood.
Peter and other mural artists painted three walls during this daylong event. Check out their mesmerizing video on how an urban masterpiece of this nature is created.
In 2014, the Cabbagetown community invited Forward Warrior to paint murals along a 250 yard retaining wall at the word of the neighborhood and the CSX property line. For years, the Cabbagetown community dealt with the graffiti tagging by painting the wall gray every few weeks.
Since it was well known that murals would typically be respected by graffiti writers and not tagged, the residence hoped that by installing murals on these walls, the graffiti writers would move to another area. The experiment worked.
As Forward Warrior grows, Peter is exploring ways to continue to give the participants full artistic freedom while at the same time seeking sponsorship and donor opportunities to provide even modes compensation for their contributions.
A crowdsourcing initiative is being planned, but Peter also said, “there’s a big part that I appreciate as an artist in just giving people an opportunity to paint what they want, and get out their truth, their message and their aesthetic to the public.”
When asked about the 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.'” And Peter has kept going.
When he is not planning for Forward Warrior, he is busy in the mentoring program at WonderRoot, painting commission projects and most recently was on an Edgar Wright movie set painting a custom mural for a scene.
Bike Tours of Atlanta is really excited for this event and for all the beautiful murals that color Atlanta because of it. Our Street Art Tour kick off event with Forward Warrior is on June 11. Get your tickets early, it’s going to be a ride to remember.
Living Walls is easily considered the Grandfather of the Mural Art Scene in Atlanta. However it would be more accurate to call it the Grandmother since this organization was created by Monica Campana, a transplant from Peru who was working as a Barista at a local coffee shop in Atlanta when the idea of Living Walls came to her. Soon after, passion and determination took over.
In 2009, Monica invited artists to come to Atlanta and paint murals. She secured the walls and funding for the supplies and at the end of the first year, Atlanta had 18 new murals. The second year, Living Walls incorporated a two-week long conference in conjunction with the mural painting activity. Over these five years, this idea grew into a recognized art organization that has engaged over 150 mural artists, over 800 volunteers and by the end of 2014, credited with installing 115 beautiful and thought- provoking murals in public spaces of Atlanta.
At the close of the 2014 Season, Monica decided to take a planned hiatus from the work and go north to the capital of mural art cities, Philadelphia. Her goal was to reflect on her experience in Atlanta and learn all she could about how a well-funded successful street art program is run. “The Philadelphia Mural Art Program has over 50 full time employees and a multi-million dollar budget to create art on the streets. We did so much with so little over those five years and Philly has been doing this for over 30 years”, says Campana.
When I spoke with her about the future of Living Walls, she assured me we would be seeing Living Walls again. “We are exploring how to create something sustainable for the artists and the organization. We are assembling our new board, designing our strategic plan and exploring corporate sponsorship”, say Campana.
As a big fan of Living Walls, I am grateful Monica was able to spend time in Philly and learn from the “masters” as they say in the art world. Atlanta has much to look forward to upon the return of Living Walls. Learn more at livingwallsatl.com
When you are sitting across from a restaurant owner who is explaining the finer details of preparing lobster macaroni and a few minutes earlier he told you about his career as a chiropractor and mixed martial artist, and then describes how he selected and built out everything in the space, from the walls to the fixtures in this rustic and gorgeous neighborhood pub, you realize how much the term Renaissance Man is overused. To hear Timothy Lance, the owner of Bantam Pub and Cabbage Pie, tell his personal story is fascinating. Tim is a New Yorker, but in 2009, he made Atlanta his home for the second time after closing a construction business in Florida. He picked the Old Fourth Ward because of the creative vibe that was brewing at every corner.
Bantam Pub, most likely the smallest pub in Atlanta, opened in 2013. Lance and his partners set the goal of making this pub “the pride of the O4W”. The way Tim believes you do that is putting the surrounding neighbors first. Lance explains, “We don’t close for movie productions or corporate events. We are ‘this neighborhood’s pub’. We don’t have wi-fi or televisions. You come to here to connect with people you are sitting next to. That’s how an artistic community can really grow, sharing your creative thoughts with each other. If you don’t have a vehicle, in other words, that place to share those creative thoughts, it’s a more starved community.” Recognizing they wanted to be the community’s pub, there is tremendous focus on high-quality food sourcing, variety and delicious affordable meals.
In 2014, Tim and his partners acquired their second restaurant space in Cabbagetown, another well-known artist community. And with great enthusiasm, Tim was at it again, tearing out walls, designing and building out this beautiful space. I’ve introduced many friends to Cabbage Pie. “Wow” is the first thing they say when they enter the front room. Most restaurant owners rely on well season interior designers to pull off what Tim calls, “Victorian smashed into mid-century modern.”
The pizza is fantastic at this “Pizza Bistro” as Tim likes to refer to it – but don’t fooled by the name, because there is a full range of culinary options on the menu with a full bar and a very popular brunch served on Sundays. Cabbage Pie has been a favorite stop on many private party bike tour events and we look forward to working with them on our Street Art events. To learn more about these fine establishments, visit Bantam Pub and Cabbage Pie.