As the latest revamp of Underground Atlanta gets underway—this time lead by Lalani Ventures CEO Shaneel Lalani, who last year took over redeveloping the historic downtown landmark from prior developer WRS—a new art project will take old pieces of the shopping center and transform them into something new and vibrant.
The Underground Creative Carts Collective debuted on July 24 as a biweekly gathering that invites members of the community to watch a rotating group of artists transform Underground’s wooden cart kiosks into art pieces. The carts are then used to store and display not only the artists’ work, but any other items that the artists wish to sell.
The program is curated by Atlanta-based artist Monet Rumford, who hand-picked each of the six permanent artists that will rotate throughout the pilot program, which runs through December. Rumford was tasked with finding a diverse group who could best represent the historical site.
“We have 35 carts, but we’re starting out with 10, and our hope is that more creatives and retailers come in and see the opportunity there to sort of create something like a pop up market that will hopefully become a long-term permanent part of the property,” says Kris Pilcher, Lalani Ventures’s creative director.
Illustrator Edgar Litumasoto wheeled his cart—on which he painted a vibrant yellow hummingbird and pink banana flower—onto the center of the intersection of Upper Alabama street and Pryor Street. He was one of the 10 artists to display their carts during the first Saturday event. He also sold hot sauce for a friend, whose label he illustrated with colorful, luminous toucans from his home country of Ecuador.
Litumasoto’s artwork depicts Ecuador’s indigenous culture as well as tropical animals such as monkeys, Amazonian parrots, and toucans. “I base my art out of a lot of historical events, past conflicts, myths, folklore and legends,” he says.
Latin music accompanied the event along with a mobile bartender, Italian ice vendors, and a plant vendor outside of the Atlanta Visitor Center. The end goal to remake Underground Atlanta into an entertainment and cultural destination for the city, aligned with the diverse group of small businesses and artists that came out for the event.
Dani Medina, co-founder of Plantifa is on route to becoming a vendor for the biweekly art experience. “We are just now getting off the ground and running, but I plan to be here biweekly to talk about the two things I love, which are plants and politics,” Medina says. “There are a lot of misinformed people walking around, and I just want to educate people on what’s actually going on as opposed to what they may see on social media.”
Several of the artists also work at Arts & Industry, a creative incubator space at 86 Pryor Street that houses 40 artists in residency. The art they create at the studio is starting to roll out around the Underground Atlanta property.
“We want to create something that the citizens here are proud of, not just another real estate development,” said Pilcher.
The Creative Carts Collective will be held Saturdays biweekly from 2 to 9 p.m between Upper Alabama Street and Pryor Street. The next event will be on August 7, and the program runs through December.