190821_JCA_HotCorner

Athens-based artist Broderick Flanigan gives a speech during the Hot Corner Mural Celebration on Wednesday Aug. 21, 2019 in Athens, Georgia. Hot Corner, at the intersection of Hull and Washington Streets, is the historic African-American business district located in downtown Athens. (Photo/Julian Alexander)

The new mural “Hot Corner: An Athens Legacy” made its official debut with a ribbon cutting ceremony and live music on Wednesday, Aug. 21 at 133 E. Washington St. The mural has been three years in the making since the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission first applied for the National Endowment of the Arts grant.

Though the mural has been finished for around two months, Athens citizens joined in the summer heat to officially commemorate “Hot Corner: An Athens Legacy” on Wednesday.

“Hot Corner: An Athens Legacy” commemorates and “highlights the African-American culture” in the Athens community and pays “homage to the legacy” of black business in the Classic City, said artist Broderick Flanigan. Flanigan, an Athens local and owner of Flanigan Portrait Studio, acted as assistant to the Miami-based international artist Elio Mercado.

Historically, Hot Corner was a hub of black business in Athens in the early 20th century through the Jim Crow segregation era. Hot Corner extended “down to Milledge and up to Lumpkin Street,” said Athens Cultural Affairs Commission Public Art Coordinator Tatiana Veneruso.

Mercado’s design was chosen by the Hot Corner Committee out of a nationwide pool of applicants. Mercado is a “world-renowned muralist” who has completed murals on five different continents.

Flanigan assisted by providing his insight on the history of the community and helped paint the larger areas of the mural while Mercado focused on the details. The pair worked long hours, sometimes in the rain, for two weeks in order to finish the mural.

Flanigan said his favorite part of the process was “having people come by and watching the process unfold.”

“I love that it’s a prominent display of black culture in this community,” Flanigan said. “It’s a constant reminder of the history.”

Built in 1910, the Morton Theatre is intrinsic to the history of Hot Corner, and Monrow Bowers “Pink” Morton can be seen in the top left of the mural. Homer Wilson, owner of Wilson’s Styling Shop, is featured below Morton. At the event, Wilson said the mural is important for remembering black culture in Athens.

“This is what this is all about … the earth is just one house, and we’ve got to learn to live in this house together,” Wilson said in front of the crowd.

The mural also features anonymous musicians, representing those who lived and thrived when Hot Corner was the cultural hub for black Athenians. It’s about representation, said Veneruso.

“For a lot of folks, just seeing someone who looks like you and seeing this monumental piece of art ... it changes how you feel valued in this community,” Veneruso said. “Hopefully it means a lot more murals for Athens as well.”

Veneruso said she was “thrilled” with the outcome of the mural. When attempting to receive the grant in order to make the mural a reality, the ACAC offered $12,500, which was matched by the National Endowment of the Arts.

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