In a recent effort to acknowledge the dedication and hard work of health care personnel and other essential service providers during the coronavirus pandemic, the Israeli consulate in Atlanta is leading a joint effort to dedicate a large-scale outdoor wall mural to them in western Atlanta, local news reported.
The initiative, in which eight other countries are involved, is the latest effort by Israel’s consulate to call attention to the problems caused by the worldwide pandemic and to address the recent spike in infections in both the US and Israel.
The mural itself spells "Thank you," as a tribute for those who have dedicated and often risked their lives in recent months to combat the pandemic, showcasing the flags of nine countries involved in its creation, presenting a multinational gesture of appreciation.
As a medium that strives to reflect reality, art has the power to create a dialogue between people and certain ideas. As such, it brings people together and offers them an opportunity to reflect on their role within the proposed reality. It is a process of both internal and communal conversations, which have the power to shift perceptions and create change. That's what Atlanta’s Israel Consul-General Anat Sultan-Dadon hopes to accomplish with this latest project.
"The mural was a way for ourselves and the eight other nations to express [the idea] that public art is a beautiful means of expressing messages to the wider public. And we are very happy that we were able to partner and work with the city of Atlanta on this," Sultan-Dadon said.
Israeli-led initiatives in Atlanta are nothing new, with a relatively active relationship since 2001 between Atlanta and Ra'anana, its sister city in Israel. Ra'anana has initiated an ambitious program to create direct dialogue with Atlanta's residents through various communication platforms.
In May, Israeli diplomatic representatives in Atlanta and Ra'anana organized a virtual summit on the coronavirus pandemic with the participation of 10 other cities. The summit addressed ways of starting to move forward from the pandemic and was titled: "Looking ahead to the new normal."
"I think the challenge of this virus is that it is similar in different places, "Sultan-Dadon said. "One has to try to find the best balance between containing the virus and stopping the spread, while still being able to maintain and ensure the livelihoods of people, the economy and education. And those, I think, are challenges that we are facing in Israel and the United States and elsewhere."
The project was coordinated with the help of the Atlanta Mayor's offices of Cultural Affairs and of International Affairs, according to Vanessa Ibarra, who directs projects in the Atlanta government to boost the city’s connections with the international community. "Israel’s consulate and others wanted to showcase their solidarity for the city and to be able to showcase that despite this pandemic, we’re all able to come together," Ibarra said.
Painted on the wall of a private building in southwest Atlanta by local artist Joseph McKinney, the mural is part of a broader effort by the city to encourage outside support for the redevelopment of Atlanta’s urban neighborhoods.
Among the most prominent organizations to contribute to the initiative was the Blank Family Foundation, which has donated over $50 million to bolster the rebuilding of Atlanta’s Westside community.