A new mural created by Athens-based artist and community activist Broderick Flanigan will be unveiled at the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art (STMA) during a special opening reception for the “Large Art Dreaming” exhibit on Saturday, Oct. 16.

The scene depicts a joyous silver-haired African-American professor from the University of Georgia reading to a group of eager children against a clouds-in-the-sky backdrop. The mural pays homage to Flanigan’s summer reading program in Athens to help under-resourced students improve their literacy skills.

“This is speaking to that and how we can collectively uplift students who are falling behind,” explained Flanigan about the inspiration for his mural. “It’s asking how do we collectively come together to get students back on a successful track where all families can thrive?”

Flanigan, an Athens-native, is the owner of Flanigan’s Portrait Studio and a self-taught mural/portrait artist. According to the STMA, he “is known for his grassroots approach to public art. In 2015, Flanigan created the organization HARPS (Helping Art Reach Public Spaces) – a hands-on mural arts program for teens that also engages nonprofits and community leaders – which he continues to lead. Now his tailormade mural will adorn the STMA along with his other artworks for a special education exhibit.”

The Large Art Dreaming exhibit is an ambitious collaboration between STMA and Flanigan that features large scale paintings made by Clarke County Middle School students with Flanigan’s mentorship, in addition to a mural painting on the STMA gallery wall.

Broderick has been diligently painting the mural on one of the STMA gallery walls since the end of September, recruiting local art student from Morgan County High School, Blythe Harris, to help bring his vision to life.

Harris, a senior, wanted to put the skills she learned in class to use for a good cause.

“In class, we learn about techniques and different mediums, this is getting to use what we learned to create something with meaning,” said Harris, who has been painting alongside Flanigan this week. “This is a step to awareness and change. I see students struggling in my own school and they don’t always get this message that they are important and can do amazing things.”

Flanigan said he is excited to partner with the STMA, praising the institution’s founder for promoting a collective perspective on humanity and investing in each other.

“This is the intersection of public art and education, raising issues that are important to communities and neighborhoods,” said Flanigan. “Steffen Thomas did that with his ‘Brotherhood of Man’ mentality, and raising issues that are important to communities and neighborhoods...To be collective and to be in unity is what is best for us. Embodying that mantra speaks volumes to the mission of this museum space. We can continue to create opportunities for artists like myself, artists like Blythe and the artists of future generations.”

The STMA will be hosting a reception for the “Large Art Dreaming” exhibition on Saturday, Oct. 16 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“This reception honors the featured artist, Broderick Flanigan, and local students who created artwork for the show,” said Catherine Allen, a marketing associate with the STMA. “Flanigan will be giving a talk about his artwork, the mural painted on the gallery wall, and the art created with Clarke County middle school students. This event is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served. Guests are encouraged to wear face masks, which may be provided upon request.”

Flanigan’s art has been exhibited at the Lyndon House Art Center, ATHICA, and the Oconee County Arts Foundation; his murals may be seen on buildings across the city of Athens.

This program is supported in part by the Georgia Council for the Arts through the appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, the Frances Wood Wilson Foundation, and generous donations from STMA patrons.

The Museum is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., located at 4200 Bethany Rd in rural Buckhead, GA. General admission is $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, and free for children ages 6 and under. For groups of ten or more, please schedule the visit in advance to guarantee enough space for social distancing – call 706-342-7557 or email info@steffenthomas.org.

For more information, go to www.steffenthomas.org or follow them on social media – facebook.com/steffenthomasmuseumofart on Facebook and @steffenthomasmuseum on Instagram. You can follow Broderick Flanigan on Instagram at: flanigans_portrait_studio.

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