Broderick Flanigan is an Athenian artist and community activist. He is the owner of the homegrown business Flanigan's Portrait Studio and assistant director of Chess & Community. Broderick's life motto is #SpreadLove, which is evident in his work. In this conversation, Broderick discusses this idea of #SpreadLove and his Athens experiences with Winterville mayor Dodd Farrelle and artist/teacher wife, Cameron Farrelle.
Q&A by Dodd Farrelle, Mayor of Winterville, Ga
Broderick: [My name is] Broderick Flanigan, visual artist in painting and drawing from Athens, Ga. Grew up in Athens most of my life. Now, I run my own art studio, and I do a lot of youth art programing and youth development. Assistant director of Chess and Community. You know, work on some local stuff as far as like community development, part of Envision Athens and other programs and initiatives going on. I sit on a couple of boards like the Lyndon House Arts Foundation as well as the Athens Farmers Market. I'm kind of heavily involved in the community, and I love creating art and inspiring others through art. That's a lot of my work. Also, supporting minority-owned businesses as well.
Dodd: Good deal. That's a lot.
Broderick: Oh yeah.
Dodd: So, I'm looking forward to finding out about Broderick. Where are you from?
Broderick: Okay, from Athens, Ga., born at, I think at St. Mary's Hospital(Broderick asked his mom after our interview and she reminded him that he was born at Athens Regional). My family grew up right there on Water Street, right across from the river. It sits like literally right across the street from the river. It's now MLK, Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway, I think it is, or drive. Yeah, that's kind of where I grew up for the first maybe 6 or 7 years of my life. Then, we kind of started moving around a lot after that. But yeah, from Athens.
Dodd: Did you move anywhere out of Athens? Have you always lived in Athens?
Broderick: For the most part. I mean, when I graduated from high school, I moved to Virginia. Myself and my daughter's mom, we were together at the time, and we ended up moving to Virginia. We lived in Hampton for a year, and then we lived in Newport for a year. She was going to school there. And then when I went to Georgia Southern, I was living in Statesboro, of course, so I lived there for about five and half years.
Dodd: What brought you back to Athens? Why have you stayed?
Broderick: Yeah, I came back to Athens for a couple of reasons. One to kind of reconnect with my family, and two, to continue the volunteerism that I started in Statesboro. We had to do a – it was a course – I can't remember the title of the course. Basically, it was one of those courses where you had to do a certain amount of volunteer hours, and you get credit for that, and it was part of your major. I would volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club, and we were doing research on the basic measurements for exercise. I was an Exercise Science major. We were doing like sit and reach, you know, how many push ups they can do. You were taking their vitals and stuff like that, as a way to kind of learn more about our field.
Through working with the kids there at the Boys and Girls Club, it kind of inspired me to do more back in my own community. When I was getting ready to transition back to Athens, I was kind of community minded. I wanted to give back in some way. I didn't know what it would look like at that time, but that was my mission, you know? And initially when I got back, it started in my church, Ebenezer Baptist Church West. So, I started volunteering with them, doing different community events, fundraisers, you know, just being more involved and getting to know people.
And then I started with Clarke County Mentor Program after that. It's a one-on-one mentoring program that was run by Ms. Paula Shilton, she's about to retire, actually. And then after that, I met Life (LaRoche). So, shortly after I met Life and saw his vision for Chess and Community, telling me what he wanted to do with the program, I bought in whole-heartedly. And then we just kind of started working together and helped build a board and grew the program.
Dodd: Good deal. Well, Athens is lucky to have you, I'll tell you that much. We don't lie.
Broderick: I appreciate it.
Thriving in the Face of Adversity
Dodd: Let's see. What are the largest influences for your work here? Your personal artwork?
Broderick: Yeah, well, here lately I've been kind of paying attention to some politically charged stuff and a lot of things going on in the African American community. That's been kind of the focus of some of my work, just raising more awareness of some of the disparities that are happening there. You know, some of the things that could be improved upon, or just brought more awareness to. Like the unemployment rate that was found out by Envision Athens. That was kind of shocking to me on one hand, but we all, you know, we realize that we have a high poverty rate in Athens. There are a lot of great things happening, but stuff like that, that I've been kind of paying more attention to here lately.
Broderick: We don't have answers to anything, but I've become more aware of stuff like that from being in the situation myself, like personal experience living at the poverty line.
Broderick: Growing up in that environment, you know, I lived in public housing when I was younger. It's, yeah, just being familiar with some of the things that occur when that is your life.
Dodd: Has the artist within you been affected by what's going on in the country?
Broderick: Yeah, definitely.
Dodd: And then the microcosm that we actually live in on a daily basis. I'm interested to find out, since you mentioned that more recently that it's been more of an influence on your art currently, the climate of the country. Discuss the difference between December 2016 to now. From Barack Obama to Trump, and how that affects, and how that has affected you, and your community, and your art.
Broderick: Yeah, yeah, that's a great question.
Dodd: That's a big heavy question for this interview process. I hope that's OK, man.
Broderick: No, it is, I appreciate it.
On Saturday April 8th, 2017 freshman UGA students in Dr. Brian Williams First Year Odyssey Seminar class, "The Current State of Police-Community Relations: Problems and Prospects," partnered with Athens police officers and kids from some local youth outreach programs to paint a mural depicting police-community relations. Students from Dr. William's class helped design and paint the mural with help from local artist and community organizer, Broderick Flanagan. The mural, painted on the side of Athens restaurant Food for the Soul, shows how police-community relations have been in the past, how they currently are, and how they should be in the future.
Dodd: You know, I'm interested to find out, because I'm watching it. And, we come from different communities, so I want to find out. I want to know how it's affected your art.
Broderick: Yeah, it definitely has. I mean, to just kind of address the first part of the question from December to now, and watching the transition. When I graduated from Georgia Southern, I was largely unaware of a lot of things that were happening. You know, how politics even work, and I still don't fully understand it. You know, how our government works at a federal level and a local level. But I'm learning, you know, as I like to use the analogy of chess. I see it as a big chess game in a lot of senses, because it takes a lot of planning. A lot of strategy, strategic planning, I'm going through a strategic plan right now in Envision Athens. It'll be interesting to see how the chess pieces, and how the pieces that fit in those puzzles, how they keep getting moved around and shifted. That's a lot of what I've noticed happening from going to the local mayor and commission meetings throughout that time.
For me, it's like I began to realize how institutions work, and I think I had to come to an understanding of that first, you know, before. Because the president is kind of like a figurehead in a sense, just like the mayor here in Athens. The mayor of Athens, they just set the agenda, you know? The commission, they kind of really have the voting power, but the mayor votes in the case of a tie or something like that. Just really understanding that and realizing that the things that the president is doing right now are not really going to be in effect until another five, 10 years down the road in some cases. I mean, some things are happening more immediate like the immigration stuff. That's affecting families with I.C.E. and all that. But, you know, some of that was happening under Obama as well. It may be to a different degree now. For me, I'm not saying that things were just as bad under Obama, but things for me weren't so different than they are now.
Broderick: I think more people are paying attention now because it's affecting more people. Yeah, so things were always, not always, but things were in a place for me where it was like almost a constant fight for survival, you know? I was working three jobs under Obama. I had just finished college under Obama. I was in college the first time he got elected in 08, and I mean, it was an exciting time. We had a lot of, I guess, expectations for change and what not, but then over time I think we kind of lowered it to our regular routine and became complacent again. People stopped paying attention to what was going on, especially in the black community. We were like, OK, we got a black president now, and he's going to take care of us. Things kind of remained. We got some small gains, but things kind of remained somewhat the same, if not gotten worse. Poverty in Athens did not decrease on a local level. It was just certain things that you thought would maybe get better, improve, but it kind of was the same.
That's kind of my take on it, you know. I was paying attention to what was going on with Trump and everything, and all the hype, and the chaos. And some of the things are very, very real, but I've been experiencing some of that in the past presidents.
Dodd: And that makes total sense with Athens, and where we are now within Envision Athens, and the struggle that this community has on its hands, and a lot of it originates in schools that we talked about. That's where the most help can be provided, I believe.
Broderick: Right. I hope I kind of addressed the question. Not to take anything away from Obama, his legacy, what he did, what he was able to do, because that is a part of history. That is very special. That inspired a lot of people to want to do certain things, and I think it maybe even had an effect on some of the things that are happening now with people wanting to kind of get more involved in saying, OK, we can do this, we can make this change, we are the change that we want to see.
Dodd: Yeah, and that inspiration that gets to the art part, is that inspiration comes from the positive. And then you can also flip that now and get that inspiration, and that charge, from the divisiveness.
Broderick: And I also like to point back to the Harlem renaissance period, you know? How all that beautiful art came from that struggle that they were going through during those times. Yeah, that was ...
Dodd: I think I've always been most creative, and I think at my best, when I was undergoing a ...
Dodd: Yeah, struggle.
Broderick: Stress or some kind of struggle, yeah.
Becoming a Community-Minded Artist & Citizen
Dodd: Did you change when you moved away and came back, as an artist?
Broderick: Well ...
Dodd: You changed as a community-minded citizen.
Broderick: I did, but see, I didn't always see myself as an artist. Yeah, I kind of, I want to say, stumbled into that career. After I graduated from Georgia Southern, I was plugging away trying to get my footing in my field. I have a BS in kinesiology, with an emphasis in exercise science. That's the degree I hold. I started volunteering at a local high school, at Clarke Central, my alma mater, and through that process, they were able to create a position for me. And I got a small stipend for working with the football team up under a certified athletic trainer, because at that point, I didn't have my certifications. What happened was, I found out before I graduated that in order to sit for the certification exam to be an athletic trainer you have to go through an accredited athletic training program. Exercise science is kind of parallel to the athletic training program. There are some overlapping classes, but then there are a lot of classes that are different, that are more geared specifically to athletic training.
During that transition, I just finished my kinesiology degree, and then once I found that out I kind of was still trying to find a position within the field that would be able to support myself and my daughter. I was unable to do that largely, so I went back to the drawing board, went back to the school, enrolled at Athens Tech. They have a Physical Therapy Assistant program there, but they only accept 20 applicants per year. I missed the first year for the program, and then the next year when I applied, I was told I needed to take some prerequisites in order to, yeah, what universities do sometimes. You know, they try to get you to take as many classes as possible, so I went along with that. But one of the classes I had to take was Art Appreciation, and it was taught by a woman named Susannah Flanigan, of no relation. She was one of the best professors I had as far as like art, and the Art Appreciation class really rekindled my passion and my fire for the arts.
When I was learning about all these different artists from these different time periods and hearing their story, and their struggle, and what they went through, it really made me reexamine myself. Not necessarily to compare myself to them. Well, partly to compare myself to them, but not as their big name, I guess what they were able to obtain. But just hearing their story and finding similarities within their struggle when they were starting out, I hit the ground running from that point on, and then after that class, that summer, that following summer, that was the spring semester. That following summer, I took a business class at Goodwill. It was a free business class, and they kind of help you get a feasibility plan, or an outline, for a business plan.
I went through that process and started networking, going to different events, letting people know, “Hey, I'm an artist, a new artist in town.” And just started connecting with all kind of people, and that was the fun part for me. I'm a pretty social person, I like to think. I love going to events, talking to people, meeting people. And before you knew it, I had my own storefront, my own studio.
Dodd: That's great.
Broderick: And that all happened within maybe like an eight-month time period.
Broderick: Yeah, so that was like 2014. 2013?
Dodd: Yeah, for me, you kind of just really burst on the scene, I guess for us, right? Because we started hearing your name, and all of a sudden it was just everywhere. And you know, quickly became acquainted with, and I know you did more so than I. But just your name was everything, and you got a great story. You've done self-starter, man.
Broderick: Well, I don't know how “self” it was. I really kind of just tapped people on the shoulder, like, “Hey, can you help me with this?” And some people say, “Yes,” some people, “No,” so I have a really great network. But the persistence is the message I want people to hear, because I heard “no” just as much as I heard “yes.” There's a quote, I think it’s by Winston Churchill; your ability of success is like the ability to go from one failure to the next one without losing enthusiasm, or something like that.
Broderick: And that's exactly what I was able to do, and I learned that lesson first when I was working for a telemarketing company. That's what I did. I did cold calls when I was in Virginia. I did that, and working on commission, and stuff like that. I would usually hit my marks. I did OK as a salesperson on the phone selling long distance for MCI.
Broderick: But that's what I did for a number of years, and just doing that training, and that repetition of like calling people up and hearing, “no,” getting cursed out a lot of times, you know, people saying, “No, I don't want it.” Just fighting through that and going from the next call to the next call, it kind of gave me some tough skin, I guess. I'm OK with hearing “no,” I just go on to the next person. Some might even say, “yes,” eventually, and that's the mentality I took into the art world.
What Makes Athens, Athens
Dodd: Yeah, that's good. From your perspective, what are Athens greatest assets?
Broderick: Oh man, Athens has a lot of great things going for it. You know, people always hear about the negative stuff because of what people like to focus on sometimes, but in my mind, some of the greatest assets are the arts and culture. The music scene from the great bands that came out of that. Even the not-so-great bands, they created their own little culture. And the visual arts, of course. The town and gown that was created. That is what makes Athens, Athens.
And then another great asset, for me, are the youth. Sometimes they get a bad rep for the small minority that are not doing so well, that are causing chaos, but there are so many youths in Athens that have so much potential, that are doing wonderful things. Through Chess and Community and Clarke County Mentor Program, I've met some of the most amazing youth that I've ever encountered. If I had half the skills and confidence that they have when I was growing up, who knows what I'd be doing right now. I'm just blown away every time. Like at the chess conference, we put out an essay contest, and we let the essay contest winners come present at the annual chess conference. And this past year, man, just the essays were so, you know, on point. Blaine Williams, the county manager, he came and spoke about Envision Athens at the chess conference, and that's what the essay topic was. What do you want to see Athens in the next 20 years? What's your vision for Athens in the next 20 years? And the kids just kind of blew it away, you know?
Broderick: And that's our future. They're going to inherit the plan that we're working on right now, so that's very special for me.
Dodd: They're the most important part of this plan. They're going to carry the plan out.
Dodd: You know?
Broderick: Yeah, so I loved that aspect of it.
Dodd: Yeah, and you mentioned confidence, because that word's always been so tricky as an artist and a performer. Confidence can be looked at as negative and positive, but I've always, that word, and I don't even know where I'm going with this. But one thing that I think we can do for the youth is to empower them to be able to do things they don't think are possible, and to give them the confidence and the know how to get it done, execute it, you know?
Broderick: Yeah, yeah.
Dodd: It's even as simple as when we were having the pageant here this week. Some of the girls stepping up to a microphone, you know, and all of a sudden projecting your voice out is a daunting task.
Dodd: But being taught how to do that, and given the confidence to do that, you know, that's where we come in. Do you know what I mean? I was just ...
Dodd: We're on the same. I'd like to see those essays, because you know we're talking about those at the Envision thing, to add the couple that really stood out.
Empowering the People That are Already There
Dodd: Let's see, what would you like Athens to be? Just talking about the essays, what do you think?
Broderick: What would I like for Athens to be? You know, I would like Athens to be a place where people truly had equal access, you know, to resources. I mean, I guess that would be a lofty goal for anywhere, like in our country, or in the world. I was watching a documentary called POVERTY, INC on Netflix, and it was interesting, it had a quote that it opened up with by Machiavelli. It talked about how, and I may be misquoting it, I apologize if I am. It talked about how the people with the power to make the change will stand to lose the most from change don't want to see change, or don't make change happen, but the people without the power who need change the most are unable to bring about that change. It was just very profound in hearing that, you know, because that's largely what happens in a lot of cases.
It's like, people are very well intentioned, and they were talking about in the vein of like NGOs, going overseas, helping with disaster relief and stuff like that. But sometimes, the disaster relief programs stay around either too long, and they over, you know ...
Broderick: The example they gave was like with rice there in Haiti. There was a shortage of rice, and the local rice farmers, once the NGO came in and started dumping all this rice in there, their rice businesses were decimated. The farmers, you know, couldn't make a living anymore. It just totally wiped out their employment and everything. I think those unintended consequences, you know, that some people may be unaware of, like I said, people have good intentions. They want to help. They want to feed people. They want to make sure people have, but then ...
Dodd: But then you gotta ...
Broderick: Yeah, you gotta at some point, you gotta be like, “Wait a minute. Let's empower the people that are already there. Let's work with the rice farmers that are already there. Let's employ them, or let's buy rice from them to stimulate their local economy again.”
That's kind of in the same vein as what I was working on with the minority businesses. You know, how can we get some of those minority businesses integrated into those government contracts that we give out from time to time. To spread some of that wealth around. Not saying that I don't want to see any other businesses get those contracts, but let's spread it around a little bit, so some of those families that run those businesses can have an opportunity at success and at growth, because those guaranteed contracts can sometimes be the difference in whether you succeed in the first couple of years or not. Because some of those contracts can be anywhere from a thousand to a few thousand dollars or even upwards. But if you're not given a shot at those types of opportunities, then you're constantly hustling, constantly, constantly, constantly.
I'm fortunate enough, I feel like, to be in that circle in a sense to a certain degree. But then I worry about other business owners sometimes. The little guys that don't have the same network or access that you or I may have. That's the challenge. That's what I would like to see, you know, more of that equity and that access.
Dodd: Yeah, and I agree with that, too, and I think the county's got a big challenge on its hands to make that happen, but has the ability and the opportunity to do it with what we're doing now. Tell us about your Athens community.
A Community Working Together, Building a Bridge
Broderick: My Athens community is, you know, I would have to go back to elementary school to kind of address this, because that's the context in which I have lived in since then pretty much. And it is two different worlds almost, but I operate in both of them. To give you the context, and I'm referencing this, when I was in elementary I tested for a gifted program, or an accelerated program. That was about third grade. From that point on, I was always pulled out during a certain time from my regular classes. Now, I was at Fourth Street Elementary at the time, which is now Howard B. Stroud. It was a mostly predominately black school I think at that time, but for my accelerated classes, when I was getting pulled, I was the only African American young male in the classes. The only African American in most of those settings, actually. Until I got to middle school and there was a couple of other African American females. I was still the only African American male.
Just being in the gifted classes, or gifted program, whatever they were calling the spectrum at the time, I began to notice that there weren't too many other young men that looked like me, and I began having this set of friends that I was in the gifted program with and then the set of friends that I lived with in public housing. I was in constant flux between those two worlds, and that's still the case to this day. I go and have lunch with the mayor, or with the chief of police, or with the mayor of Winterville, and we interview and stuff like that. But then my business is located near a public housing facility near where one of the ones I grew up, which is Nellie B.
Going back and forth between those two worlds is like that's my community, you know. It's still in the same community, same Athens, but it's two different sides. What I've noticed is that both sides have misconceptions about the other. Both sides do. You know the public housing side, or the underserved community side, they think that every white person is rich or well off. There's a lot of misconception. They think that white people are out to get them sometimes. Some of them are afraid of white people. They've verbally said this to me. And then on the other side, the same thing is going on. They think everybody in the underserved community is poor, you know, the neighborhoods are just crime infested. Just these ugly things going on in the neighborhoods, and some of that is true, but a lot of time, that's not the case. They're just people, but they have a different struggle. There are misconceptions on both sides ...
Dodd: You're fortunate that you've experienced this, because your bias to...
Broderick: Yeah, and it frustrates ...
Dodd: Compassion and understanding.
Broderick: Yeah, yeah, that's right on point. But at the same time, it frustrates me, because I ask, and some people do, I ask both sides to try to come together sometimes in a way that's not forced, you know? And that's kind of what I wanted to create with First Friday Initiative that I started doing. First Fridays is an initiative I started about four years ago, because what I noticed is that a lot of people who are making decisions were making decisions without the people they were making decisions for being present in the room. A lot of things that affect people's lives on that lower end, or that underserved community end, they were being discussed, but they were the missing piece from the conversation, you know? And just having their feedback sometimes can better inform people with the resources, I think.
People try to reach out and get those voices, but sometimes they do it after the plan’s been made. They'll come and say, “OK, well what do you guys think about this?” Or, “What's the best way to implement this?” Instead of bringing them in on the front end and saying, “OK, what do you need?” I think some of that's starting to happen now. People are starting to understand, OK, we need to ask before we kind of come up with a plan. Let's get some input before that happens. And that's what I want to create with First Fridays, is bringing those different leaders into the community to interact with people where they live. At the community center right near the public house facilities, and so far it's been going, but it's taken off a little bit slower than I anticipated. But last year at the back to school event that we hosted, we brought out about a little over 500 people, and we gave away about 400 book bags to kids from K-12, so that was pretty cool.
Dodd: You're taking the leaders from the community and taking them out there on Friday?
Broderick: Taking them on first Fridays. But it only happens from May until August, so for about four months during the summer months when the kids are out of school, you know, they have a little bit of lull time. And a couple of things I stress at the event are education. I have raffles for education with toys, because I do believe in education, and that's the key to upward mobility. But how do we get some of those people that aren't traditionally invested in education to become invested in education? That generational cycle of, you know, “OK, I'll do all right if I just get my diploma or whatever. I'll skate by and do just enough so I can walk across the stage.”
But how do we get people to really change their mindset and invest more in education and higher education? Not necessarily going to college, but finding some kind of skill set that you are passionate about, that you can make a living doing. That was some of the things I wanted to focus on was that, but also creating that network and those relationships organically, you know, through the First Friday event. There are many chess communities, so they're right there in the community where they have access to people, and they start to build relationships.
Dodd: Those two worlds that you live in, that you go back and forth from, are the two worlds that the county's trying to bring together right now. You're a bridge.
Broderick: I guess.
Dodd: For the county, I mean. I'd be interested, and probably not in this conversation, but I'd be interested. I know you know of two or three major fixes that could occur to bring that unification together a little bit quicker, and some of it's on a political level, and some of it's on a community level. But it's there, there are answers there, and it's not a quick fix. But Athens is kind of going through that now where you got two different Athens, and we're in the Envision process. We live out here in an area of the community that's not served by the bus line. It's basically you're just out here on the edge of the county, and your voice might not be heard. Or like you said, you get asked after the plan's been made. How do you feel about the plan?
Dodd: Anyway, but hopefully we're going to fix all that, or at least we're going in the right direction with Envision Athens and some of the things we're doing out here.
Broderick: The first part is starting the conversation, you know?
Broderick: There has to be an open and honest dialog.
Dodd: But you, man, you're in an incredible position to be a bridge for the county. To be a bridge for the community at large, you know? All of us, really.
Broderick: Yeah, that's a lot of pressure though, man. I don't think I was ready for that. It's a lot of pressure.
Dodd: We gotta help you then. We gotta help each other.
Broderick: Yeah, definitely.
Dodd: Because we're out here in the new position I have now, it's the same thing. It's the same worlds in the elementary school, you know, I'm trying to get everybody kind of moving together and get the community moving. You can lift all boats if you work together. What are the greatest needs for your business to grow and stay here in Athens?
Alps Road Books for Keeps Mural by Flanigan's Portrait Studios
Dodd: How does the community continue to inspire you? I think you've talked about it. I think it's the youth, but how does the community continue to inspire?
Broderick: They continue to inspire me just through their persistence, and the galvanizing that's been happening because of the administration that we were speaking about earlier. More people are coming out, and willing to listen, and willing to have a conversation. That kind of surprised me, actually, the amount of people that have been willing to come out and support certain things. Not just things that I'm doing, but things in general to help those in need, or those that it seems like are under attack right now. A lot of churches are going to become sanctuary sites and things of that nature.
And of course the youth, always, my focus is mainly with the youth. That's why I create opportunities for them when I have mural projects, when I have opportunities to pay them a stipend for helping me. I build that into the budget, that's very important for me, so they can see that their work has value, so they can learn about how to earn money for what you do, and stuff like that, and see that connection. Earlier, I began to realize I didn't see that connection, and I feel like the better they'll be off in the long run when they start to get into the workforce, or when they start their own business, or whatever they decide to do, the more experience they have with money, and managing money, and learning from their mistakes. Because they're going to make mistakes. There's no way to avoid that. And that's what keeps me going. Just seeing that evolve.
Activating Art in a Community
Dodd: What are you currently working on that excites you the most?
Broderick: Oh man, I'm working on a lot of things. There are actually two things. One is the mural program that I created. I brought it here after the talk I saw in Atlanta at the Arthur Blank Foundation. Jane Golden was the keynote that day. If you are familiar with her, she started the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.
Broderick: Yeah, the mayor at the time was Wilson Goode, back in the 80s. He had a problem with these young men writing and tagging all over the city buildings. Like writing graffiti, street art. It was costing the city a lot of money to cover these up. He was preemptive and wanted to attack the problem, or the issue, without locking the kids up. He kind of created a program where like, let's bring them in and teach them how to ... Because some of the murals that the guys were creating, even though they were graffiti style, they were beautiful.
Broderick: There was obviously some talent there. They brought these kids in, you know, let them work with a professional artist. And they developed their talent and paid them to paint walls all over the city, and the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program was born. And to date, they've done like over 3,000 murals, and they're known as the mural capital of the world. They have the most murals per square mile, I think, in the world, I believe. I brought that idea here to Athens and started the Mural Arts Program for teenagers. I offered that. You know the whole thing, how it goes, like good artists borrow, great artists steal. I kind of borrowed her idea, or stole her idea, and brought it here and made it my own. Put a little twist on it.
I'm excited about that program, but another thing I'm very excited about is I'm working on a book project. A photo book project that will be a series of portraits that I paint that will be photographs, and I will be taking some of the information that I learned about the individuals and putting that into the book as well to make the content. There was a book that President Bush, George Bush ...
Broderick: Yeah, the portraits of the veterans. It will be similar to that project, but it will be highlighting historic black figures from Athens-Clarke County.
Dodd: Oh, that's great.
Broderick: Yeah, so we hear the stories all the time about the Miriam Moores, about the Elizabeth Kings, about the Moons, and the Reverend Killians. I mean, we know Reverend Killian because he recently, you know, rest his soul. But a lot of people don't know. They hear the names, but they don't know what these people look like a lot of times.
Broderick: And what kind of made me think of the project was like just going into city hall sometimes you see all these past mayors, and they all look the same, you know? And nothing against that or anything, but it's like there's this other side of history, too. That we have these leaders from the African American community that did awesome things, you know. I can't remember her name right now, but she was ... Evelyn C. Neely, yeah, she was considered unofficial mayor of east city Athens. Let's put a portrait of her in a publication, you know?
Broderick: That's kind of the vein where I was going with that project, and I'm very excited about that. I'll be partnering with the Wilson Center for Humanities. They'll be helping me deal with the book launch and in some fundraising programs.
Dodd: How far are you into that project?
Broderick: Kind of the initial phases. I have the list of the 28 people I'll be doing, because what I did in the month of February, for the past few years, is I did a portrait every single day in the month of February. Only in February, because it was taxing just doing 28.
Broderick: But I would highlight a historic or iconic black figure, but it was mostly a national thing. I was doing Ray Charles, Jimi Hendrix, you know? Muhammad Ali. Martin Luther King. Various people, iconic figures. And I was doing that to help me work on my craft, and practice, and become better at painting portraits. Because I love to paint portraits and capture people, and that was just a way of me kind of engaging with my public as well, because each night I finished a portrait I would post it on social media, and then I would kind of engage them by saying, okay, who do you want me to paint next? People would throw out suggestions, and I would paint some of the suggestions. I kind of took that concept and brought it to like a hyper local sense in where I would paint people from Athens now, you know, historic black figures or iconic black figures and turn it into a book. When instead of doing one book, I'll probably do a volume series, but this one is going to be ...
Dodd: That's awesome.
Broderick: I'll probably bring in other voices, and other cultures, other demographics as we move forward.
Dodd: That's awesome. That's fantastic. I really enjoyed this.
Broderick: Yeah, me too. It's an awesome process. I got to know you guys better.