It took a harmonic convergence of social media, an engineer’s retirement and an unmet need to launch a website mapping more than 500 street murals in metro Atlanta.
Fittingly, a guy named Art was the one to locate all of the art.
“I’ve always had an interest in art,” Art Rudick says, “but I’ve never been an artist myself. I once did woodworking as a hobby, making custom furniture.”
The design of a new hobby took shape for Rudick, 61, about three years ago when he and his wife visited family in New York City. While there, the Atlanta couple took a guided tour of street art in the working-class Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn — and everything changed for Rudick.
“It was an eye-opening experience,” he recalls. “This was amazing stuff.”
On the same trip, Rudick’s niece introduced him to Instagram, and he returned home to his Old Fourth Ward neighborhood full of curiosity. He wanted to take photos of Atlanta’s street murals to post on his new Instagram account, but where were the murals? How could he find them?
Necessity became the mother of invention when Rudick realized that a decent map of the city’s street art didn’t exist. So, with no previous experience in doing a website, he took it upon himself to create an online guide to Atlanta’s street murals and the artists who put them up.
The result is the Atlanta Street Art Map at StreetArtMap.org, which has interactive maps covering 14 neighborhoods and such outlying cities as Dunwoody, Brookhaven and Sandy Springs. The site also provides six self-guided walking tours of street art and includes bios of 16 muralists.
Rudick, an engineer who retired at the end of 2016 after a 32-year career with Coca-Cola, finds most of his content by following local artists on Instagram. He also has a contact page on his site, and artists sometimes reach him that way.
Twice a year, he says, he drives around to check on every mural, as part of making sure that the site is current. He’ll often spot new work while making the rounds.
Rudick says his favorite mural is one by the artist known as Jerkface, based on the Tom and Jerry cartoon characters. The mural is the first stop on the Little Five Points walking tour.
“It’s partially because I grew up watching that cartoon,” Rudick says, explaining the attraction.
He says his favorite artists are Yoyo Ferro, who uses a technique known as blind contour drawing, and five who are part of a collective known as the Lotus Eaters Club, which does “a lot of interesting and amazing work.” He also admires the work of Donna Howells, a Cabbagetown artist in her seventies who began creating murals only recently.
Rudick keeps his eyes open for murals in suburban cities, too. Ferro’s work appears on Brookhaven’s Cross Keys High School, and the website notes artwork in such locations as the parking garage of Sandy Springs’ Prado shopping center.
Tracking the artists also involves tracking the controversies that sometimes follow them. Rudick stays on top of those things, too.
Earlier this year, several intown murals by Ray Geier, an artist known as Squishiepuss, were covered up when allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct surfaced against Geier, whose work also appears in several Sandy Springs locations. And when a mural by Fabian Williams depicting Muhammad Ali and Colin Kaepernick was obliterated in the demolition of an abandoned building right before the Super Bowl, other artists rallied to create murals of Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback controversial for his protests during the national anthem and other political activism, all over the city.
When new artists reach out to him, Rudick says he often refers them to WonderRoot, a nonprofit arts organization, or to Stacks Squares, a Cabbagetown mural project.
Who knew that a retirement hobby — one that began in a most unexpected way — would place Rudick in the middle of Atlanta’s arts scene?
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he says. “I’m going to keep doing the site for as long as I live in Atlanta and as long as I enjoy doing it.”
Art Rudick’s Must-See Murals
Artists: Dr. Dax and The Loss Prevention. Location: Behind Binder’s Art Supplies, 3330 Piedmont Road, No. 18. A hidden gem that pays homage to the famous Limelight disco, located in the same plaza during the early 1980s. Andy Warhol supposedly hung out there. The Kroger in the plaza is still known to locals as “Disco Kroger.”
Artist: Yoyo Ferro. Location: Cross Keys High School, 1625 North Druid Hills Road. One of Ferro’s larger works and typical of his use of bright colors and blind contour drawing style. If you don’t have a child attending the school, you might not know it exists.
Artist: Mr. Totem. Location: Inside the parking deck of the Prado, 5600 Roswell Road. These murals are a pleasant surprise to anyone new to the Prado. The bright colors are a stark contrast to the drab concrete of the rest of the parking deck’s interior.
Artist: The Loss Prevention. Location: Intersection of Auburn Avenue and Jesse Hill Junior Drive. A 70-foot-tall mural honoring Civil Rights icon John Lewis looms over the southbound Connector and announces that Atlanta is the birthplace of the Civil Rights movement.
Artist: Mr. Totem. Location: Chamblee-Dunwoody Road underpass at Peachtree Road. Two long murals, across from each other on retaining walls of the underpass, provide an immersive street art experience for anyone driving through. One side pays homage to the area’s railroad origins.