New mural celebrates Athens’ creative spirit
Andre Gallant, Athens Banner-Herald
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Oconee Street’s newest resident may be invisible to most. He’s bearded, dressed in loose clothes, perhaps resembling the homeless men who trudge under the Loop bridge just before Carmike Cinemas. He’s a full-color, giant figure crouched into a 14-by-28-foot space. But if the traffic whizzing past St. Udio, the Oconee Street metalsmith studio across from the Waffle House there, isn’t paying attention, this fellow will certainly be missed.
He’s called St. Udio, named after the metalworks, and he is a full mural on a cinderblock studio wall created by Joel Rosenburg, a fairly recent graduate of the University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art. Hidden behind a chain link fence, the mural is visible by traffic heading into downtown Athens from the east side of town.
St. Udio’s owners, Andy Flage and Mikey Harboldt, commissioned the 24-year-old artist to paint a mural on the wall, giving him the freedom to create as he pleased.
But Rosenburg said he wanted something, for starters, that would be easy to read by passing traffic, so he used fairly primary colors as his palette. He also liked the idea of St. Udio itself, a made-up patron saint dreamed up by Flage, a fictitious figure that only serves as the metalsmith’s logo. Rosenburg began to think of St. Udio as the patron saint of creativity, a worthy sentinel for the city of Athens.
Thinking of the subject as such helped tie Rosenburg’s project to the grand narratives of classic North American muralists like Diego Rivera, artists who used the medium to promote big ideas. “I wanted to separate the mural from the current street art,” Rosenburg said, though he expressed his admiration for the street art of Los Angeles, where he spent six months last year.
Making a mural is public art, of course, but as Rosenburg explains, the public has more to do with the finished product than they might think.
“There’s a space between the idea and the making where something else comes in, something you can’t plan for,” he said, hinting at the effect St. Udio can have on an artist. Rosenburg worked on the mural for 26 days, well more than 100 working hours. “Working on a mural, with hundreds of eyes on it it everyday, impacts it in a way you can’t plan for.”
Rosenburg, living and working again in Athens for the first time since his graduation in 2012, said the mural has already attracted attention to a part of Athens that’s mostly just car window dressing.
“The area where it is, that side of town needs a face lift. It’s covered up and hidden and then pops out at you,” Rosenburg said. “I think making murals can change the attitude of people who live in the area. I don’t know if it generates pride, but it makes it an enjoyable place. I live close by and I felt like I was involved in making the neighborhood a better place. I was trying to think of other ways to look at the image, to appreciate it beyond my own input. It’s less about me and the creative act, and making something bigger than myself.”
The St. Udio building is located at 1321 Oconee St. on the inner loop side heading toward downtown. A grand opening is being planned for later this month.
Contact arts and entertainment reporter André Gallant: (706) 208-2230, @andregallant and www.facebook.com/GallantABH.
Oconee Street’s newest resident may be invisible to most. He’s called St. Udio, named after the metalworks, and he is a full mural on a cinderblock studio wall created by Joel Rosenburg.
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