LGBTQ ‘hero’ Joan Garner honored in Super Bowl art project

Joan Garner, the beloved late Fulton commissioner, is being honored with a mural saluting her work advocating for LGBTQ rights and fighting HIV/AIDS as part of a larger art project ahead of Super Bowl LIII.

“Atlanta is in a position to make waves. If we can address these problems we can be an example to the world,” reads the quote from Garner on the mural (top photo).

The mural is part of a larger public art project led by WonderRoot highlighting Atlanta’s civil rights and social justice journey leading into the Super Bowl. Atlanta plays host to the sporting event on Feb. 3. Thirty murals will be painted across the city as part of Off the Wall and the project is part of Legacy 53, an effort by the Super Bowl Host Committee for the game to leave a lasting impact on the city.

“One of our goals with Off the Wall is to amplify Atlanta’s legacy around civil and human rights — and connect that to contemporary struggles for justice in Atlanta and beyond,” said Chris Appleton, founder and executive director of WonderRoot. “In an effort to elevate key stories and ideas present in our city’s pursuit of civil and human rights, it goes without saying the importance of calling attention to the stories and people in Atlanta’s LGBTQ+ community.”

Garner’s mural will be installed at the Metropolitan, a condo building on Marietta Street in downtown Atlanta, and will become part of the city’s permanent public art collection.

WonderRoot engaged Atlanta residents to help select subjects of the murals, Appleton said.

“Artists, community stakeholders and residents gathered over the summer for 43 community conversations, which inspired the content of the murals for Off the Wall,” he said. “We invited a diverse group of organizations and residents to reflect Atlanta’s community, including many members of the LGBTQ+ community.”

Appleton said those groups included SisterLove, Georgia Equality, Georgia State University’s Institute for Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies, the Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, and the National Center for Civil & Human Rights.

Dazon Dixon Diallo, the founder and president of SisterLove, will also be honored with a mural celebrating her work advocating for reproductive rights and fighting HIV/AIDS.

The artist team Loss Prevention Arts designed and will install Garner and Diallo’s murals leading up to Super Bowl 53 on Feb. 3.

Garner died in April 2017 after a long fight against breast cancer. Friends, family, supporters and elected officials remembered her for her work as a Fulton County Commissioner, community organizer and LGBTQ activist.

Garner’s mural honors her for creating the Fulton County Task Force on HIV/AIDS. AIDS researcher Melanie Thompson called Garner the “founding mother” of the task force.

The task force’s recommendations were presented in August 2017. But the Fulton County Board of Commissioners didn’t convene the committee to carry out those recommendations until October of this year. Vacancies on the committee still remain. The next meeting of the committee is Jan. 10.