For the past four years, Peter Ferrari has made his living as a full-time artist, which is no mean feat when you consider that his canvas is often the side of a building—not exactly a transportable medium. Peter was born in Atlanta and has lived here most of his life. At 35, he’s old enough to remember that the city’s conflicted relationship with graffiti is nothing new; what is new is a greater appreciation for what separates his work from that of a tagger. “People want that edgy, urban look,” he told me, “but they don’t want a bunch of tags all over the place.”
A few years back, Peter was asked to contribute his talent to the Living Walls project, which has helped push our idea of what—and where—art can be. Peter also founded Forward Warrior, an annual event where a few dozen artists get together and collaborate for one day on a project, with spectators invited to observe.
“Forward, warrior” is a phrase he and a former roommate would use to encourage one another when times were tough. That optimism is essential in Peter’s field, which takes a hit every time some jackass with a can of paint and an axe to grind desecrates something that matters to us. Think of what happened in September, when three of Atlanta’s streetcars were slathered overnight in tags. (Incidentally, Peter suspects that vandalism was from an out-of-towner. The tags were unlike anything he’d seen before in Atlanta, and the public nature of the incident leads him to think it’s the work of a “bomber”—a tagger with zero appreciation for art.)
Peter’s name was the first one our photography director, Caroline Kilgore, suggested when design director Liz Noftle said she wanted to commission a street artist to paint our Best of Atlanta cover. Liz and Peter spent a few hours discussing the concept, and the actual painting took about eight hours. I asked Peter what about public art appeals to him. “Everyone sees it,” he said. “That’s the simplest explanation. It’s the little dopamine hit you get when you drive by your work. And there’s a real opportunity for people to interact with your work, as opposed to a painting in a gallery that people have to literally walk into to see. Public art creates a new space that wasn’t there before the art was there.”
So if you’re taking a stroll on the BeltLine near Ponce City Market, keep your eyes open for Peter’s mural. The phrase “Best of Atlanta” describes the content of this issue, but it’s also a good descriptor of the thoughtful and provocative work being done by artists like Peter Ferrari, whose art enriches the way we see our city.
Check out a timelapse video of how Ferrari painted our cover mural:
(Video by Peter Ferrari)
This article originally appeared in our November 2015 issue.