Israel’s consulate in Atlanta is leading an effort to acknowledge the work of health care professionals and those providing other essential services during the coronavirus pandemic.
As visible evidence of that support, Israel Consul General Anat Sultan-Dadon joined representatives from eight other nations to dedicate a large-scale outdoor wall mural on Oct. 30 in Westside Atlanta. The work was underwritten by Israel and those nations whose flags are a part of the mural, according to Sultan-Dadon, whose office in Atlanta serves a seven-state Southern region.
“The mural was a way for ourselves and the eight other nations to express 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.”
The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and the Mayor’s Office of International Affairs coordinated the project, according to Vanessa Ibarra, who directs projects in 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.”
The mural initiative is the latest effort by Israel’s consulate to call attention to the problems caused by the worldwide pandemic.
In May, Israel’s diplomatic representatives here helped to organize a virtual summit on the COVID-19 crisis with Atlanta’s sister city in Israel, Ra’anana. The program, which had the participation of 10 other cities, was described as “looking ahead to the new normal” created by the health care crisis.
Ra’anana has had a sister city relationship with Atlanta since 2001. The Israel city has initiated an ambitious program of communicating directly with residents using various communications platforms including social media.
The summit conference was an attempt to address the difficulties that the United States and Israel have faced in trying to control the spread of the disease.
According to Israel’s consul general, both nations are trying to determine how to address a recent spike in infections.
“I think the challenge of this virus is it is similar in different places. One has to try to find the best balance between containing the virus, stopping the spread, while still being able to maintain and ensure the livelihoods of people, the economy, education, and those, I think, are challenges that we are facing in Israel and the United States and elsewhere.”
The mural is on the wall of a private building at 850 Oak Street, Southwest, near the West End Mall. Artist Joseph McBride painted the work as part of a broader effort by Atlanta to encourage outside support for the redevelopment of Atlanta’s urban neighborhoods.
Among the most prominent of the organizations contributing to the effort is the Blank Family Foundation, which has donated over $50 million to bolster the rebuilding of Atlanta’s Westside community that is adjacent to Arthur Blank’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Suganthi Simon, the senior project officer for the effort, points out that there is an important role for what has been called creative placemaking, like the mural in the West End to encourage new life in older urban areas. According to Simon, the project is more than just a message of support during the pandemic.
“I think it’s about anchoring that sense of place and history and culture, especially for our neighborhood. There’s a big spotlight. There has been a big spotlight on the Westside ever since. You know, we announced the Westside Neighborhood Prosperity Fund, the stadium coming to the Westside neighborhoods.”
The Blank Foundation, according to Simon, is committed to the effort for the long term.
“The work on Oak Street is not just a beautiful painting on an abandoned wall, but among the things you can do to center around a neighborhood and start to fill in places again with people. The Blank Family Foundation is committed to the positive, transparent transformation taking place in Atlanta’s historic Westside neighborhoods and really breaking the cycles of intergenerational poverty that have manifested through decades.”