Super Bowl Murals: Shanequa Gay Wants To Show Another Side Of Homelessness

Jan 30, 2019

Dozens of murals celebrating Atlanta’s social justice history are going up before the Super Bowl.

It's part of an intitiative called "Off The Wall" that curated 11 artists to paint the murals around the city.

Atlanta artist Shanequa Gay drew inspiration from a youth homeless shelter for her new mural called “excuse me while I kiss the sky.”

GPB's Sophia Saliby spoke with Gay over the phone  about how she wants to dispel negative stereotypes with her mural.

On what her mural looks like

You'll see beautiful, silhouetted figures that are puckering up and kissing. When people look at my mural, I want to draw them in with beauty but also get their attention. What I want them to take away is: Who are these people? Why is this here? And to create some problem-solving thought processes once they find out what the mural is actually about.

On how she wants to challenge people's perceptions of homelessness

The Covenant House houses homeless youths between the ages of 18 and 25. I wanted to know how I could give them presence and center some of these stories, so I took pictures of them making kissy faces. This affection isn't necessarily something we associate with homelessness. How many homeless people have you kissed?

I wanted to humanize something that often dehumanizes us as human beings. I just wanted to bring to light not the person that a lot of us visualize as a homeless person. When you look at Covenant House, it's also youth. It's teenagers. It's young people. I, for myself, cannot imagine being homeless at that age, and yet there are little people walking around with no place to stay. 

On how she was inspired by Atlanta's civil rights icons

For me, I'm pulling from Dr. King's voice in the latter years: "community or chaos." I'm focusing toward community. One of the things that we can do in the community is make sure we are ok, in every aspect. That means taking care of our Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and one of the basics is a place to stay. 

This conversation has been edited for content and clarity.