There are more than 20 schools around the Atlanta BeltLine, and many students use the trail corridor as part of their commute to school. After years of ideating about a public art collaboration, the first Atlanta Public Schools x BeltLine collab came to fruition on the Southside Trail.
5th grade students from Parkside Elementary in Grant Park worked with Art on the Atlanta BeltLine muralist Aysha Pennerman to create four temporary murals* on the Southside Trail near the school. Sharing from her own lived experience, Aysha guided students through the public art process with a mock experience. The students worked in groups to create an art proposal and a budget and present it to a jury panel comprised of members of the BeltLine Public Art Advisory Council– Winfrey Young, Karen Shacham, and Grace Kim. Then, they learned how to project and trace their approved art onto large canvases and write artist statements. Finally, the groups took field trips to the BeltLine to paint the murals.
“Since we are an IB school, [the students] decided they should relate their work to the IB profile,” shared Ayana Weekes, the art teacher at Parkside.
The murals evoked themes of self-awareness, diversity, academics, and the future.
“We wanted our fifth graders to have something to be able to show for their learning for the whole entire year,” said Ramia Lowe, IB Coordinator and Math Instructional Coach at Parkside.
The students marked the completion of their weeks-long project with a mural unveiling in front of their peers, parents, and members of the community. Parkside Elementary Principal Timmy Foster, Atlanta Public School Board member Katie Howard, and Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.’s Chief Equity and Inclusion Officer, Nonet Sykes also attended in support of the students’ accomplishments.
“We have been dreaming about collaborations with BeltLine schools and how to integrate public art and its process into the curriculum for a long time,” said Miranda Kyle, arts and culture program manager at Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. “This is a great way to invite students and the community to discover the BeltLine and develop a greater appreciation for public art, and we look forward to getting more BeltLine schools involved in the future.”
This art collab, which aligns with Mayor Andre Dickens’ Year of the Youth initiative, was brought to life with the support of Doannie Tran, a Parkside parent, Ayana Weekes, Ramia Lowe, the BeltLine’s arts and culture department, and the BeltLine Public Art Advisory Council.
*The Parkside murals were removed from the Ormewood Avenue bridge on the Southside Trail following an unfortunate incidence of vandalism.