Neighborhood Beauty: Interview with Artist Olive47

by FCS on

Public art can bring vibrancy and highlight beauty in a neighborhood. Research suggests it can also help residents feel attachment to the community. In our target neighborhood of Historic South Atlanta, Artist Olive47 has been bringing life and color to houses, fences, and more on our streets.

We’re delighted that she was willing to be interviewed for our blog and share a little bit about her passion, her art, and her experiences in South Atlanta. Meet Olive.

Q: How did you get involved in art?

Olive: I’ve been making art my whole life. Ever since I could use my opposable thumbs effectively! There was never a choice to get involved. It choose me.

Unlike today, where everyone is encouraged to do everything regardless of whether they have any real natural talent, when I was growing up, only a few of us little weirdos were the ones in the corner constantly drawing. While pursuing my undergrad degree in painting, I started getting commissions to paint murals in peoples’ houses. Lots of baroque cupids in those days.

Meanwhile, I had started doodling on walls here and there and became very involved in the (illegal) street art movement in the mid/late 90s out of reaction to the gallery scene in Los Angeles where I was living. Around this time, I started traveling a lot and began to write and photograph for a couple of graffiti/street art publications.

Q: Why do you think community art is important?

Olive: I don’t necessarily see myself as a community artist in that I am not one of those artists who brings out the community to help me paint or asks for their input in my work.

My work is about very specific themes that reoccur in art and art history throughout the past few centuries and a language of symbols that have evolved from my studies. I see what I do (teaching the themes in my work) as a very long, drawn out job to do that I’ve been carrying out for the past 20 something years and will continue until I die.

Art in general is important because it can act as a unifier among people, regardless of educational/financial background. By the sheer nature of a lot of murals being outside, anyone is given the chance to experience the work. It isn’t kept inside for a select group to enjoy. And people who would never think to step inside a gallery can share an experience.

Q: What inspires your murals?

Olive: I don’t like to be too specific about the meanings of the symbology of my work, because I believe that once it leaves my hand, each viewer then finds their own meaning in a piece.

Suffice to say, I think it’s obvious I am addressing the ideas of the order in nature, the tree of life/life cycle,  the importance of animals, among other ideas - basic things that contribute to the inner structure of our existence.

Q: How has your experience been in South Atlanta?

Olive: I’ve really enjoyed working on the projects I’ve been doing in South Atlanta and Lakewood and getting to know some of the residents. I have one more mural to do down here before I move back to Los Angeles at the end of April, so it will be a bit of a bittersweet experience. But I’m happy to leave one last piece, and I will be back to visit!

Olive’s impact is can surely be seen in the neighborhood. The collage above shows several examples of her art in the community. It’s a joy to see these installments in South Atlanta, and it’s fun to glimpse a behind-the-scenes peek at Olive’s artistic experience.


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