On Tuesday, April 21, 2015, KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools officially unveiled the Jesse Owens mural completed by KIPP Strive Academy art teacher and renowned artist Eric Mack, students from KIPP Vision Primary, KIPP Strive Primary and KIPP Atlanta Collegiate.
“One of KIPP Vision Primary’s core values is honor. We teach our scholars to honor themselves by recognizing that they come from a rich heritage, and to honor others by appreciating and embracing differences,” shares Christa Coleman, director of community affairs for KIPP Vision Primary. “This mural epitomizes that core value. We are thrilled that our students were able to put their hearts and hands to this project that is now a part of their community.”
During the months of February and March, the students from varying grade levels at KIPP participated in a series of educational and artistic activities culminating in a full-sized mural on the front wall of KIPP Atlanta Collegiate. As they bore many weather delays, Mack worked closely with the students “in awakening their imagination to create a mural that reflected both the ideas of Owens’s struggle and his ultimate triumph.” Through research and discussion sessions, the students witnessed Owens’ story come alive and was captured by the collaborative design.
“When we were first approached by Focus Features [about the opportunity] to paint a mural at the school, knowing specifically it would [honor] Jesse Owens, what excited me the most was thinking about our core values. When we discussed having kids from different levels of the region coming together and creating a piece of artwork of someone who so fully embodied the value of tenacity, I knew it would be an excellent opportunity. Once the project started, I was able to see how our students and the students from the primary level worked with Mr. Mack to create this mural, which is not only a reminder of the incredible spirit of Jesse Owens but also is something that would refresh our school,” says Dave Howland, founding principal of KIPP Atlanta Collegiate.
Mack has a piece of his work in the permanent collection at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and has shown in Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia and Germany.
“Owens displayed his talents in Germany as well, winning four gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin,” Coleman points out.
Owens became the first American track and field athlete to win four gold medals in a single Olympiad. Owens’ victories in the 100-meter dash, the 200-meter dash, the long jump and the 400-meter relay are considered one of the greatest athletic feats of all time. During a time of deep-rooted segregation, he affirmed that individual excellence — rather than race or national origin — distinguishes an individual. The entire world took note of his remarkable achievement, one which remains without precedent. His record number of gold medal wins stood for 48 years.
“The project was exciting,” Mack continues by outlining mural details, “The letter ‘O” in the focal point is in the shape of the track. The font type and lettering were derived from ancient Roman style used during the first Olympic games. The laurels add the class and the regal feel I was aiming for. Notice the colors, the French grey background and the Olympic rings, which are shaped slightly different due to licensing. You’re looking at a visual remix. It was spontaneous and added to the education. I hope the kids had as much fun as I did.”
Tirrell Whittley, CEO of Liquid Soul Media, the Atlanta-based marketing agency that services clients in entertainment, faith-based, corporate, sports and nonprofit organizations, says he is as excited about the Jesse Owens biopic, Race, as he was about Jackie Robinson’s biopic, 42.
“I ran track when I was in high school,” shares the Milwaukee native.