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Could wall murals help cure rampant blandness at Atlanta parking garages?

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The Prado commissioned an acclaimed graffiti artist, and “the response from our tenants and patrons has been overwhelmingly positive”

A photo of an Atlanta-centric addition by Mr. Totem, graffiti artist.
An Atlanta-centric addition by Mr. Totem.
Photos courtesy of North American Development Group

Anyone familiar with downtown’s bygone “Whaling Wall,” a life-size depiction of seafaring mammals beside the Georgia Railroad Freight Depot, knows that Atlanta parking garages and street murals have a longstanding relationship.

But the inside of parking garages ... that’s basically uncharted territory for Atlanta public art.

Until now.

At The Prado in Sandy Springs, the 445,000-square-foot home to such destinations as Publix, Target, and Life Time Fitness, owners North American Development Group were looking for ways to uplift patrons shuffling in and out of a tiresome layer-cake of parking, of which Atlanta has no shortage.

They perused the portfolios of several artists. Until the works of Atlanta-based Mr. Totem—whose explosive graffiti and commissioned pieces have enlivened city walls for ages, including a Krog Street portrait of actor Robert Mitchum that lasted long enough to qualify as iconic—jumped out.

Mr. Totem started the project in January and recently swung back from Japan to finish.

“He has such an incredible talent for transforming locations,” Al Robinson of CentreCorp Management, an affiliate of North American Development Group, told Curbed Atlanta, via email. “What he accomplished surpassed even our expectations.”

In other cities, murals inside parking garages have functioned as way-finding aides, helping shoppers locate the levels where vehicles were left.

The Prado installment, for now, wraps walls on a single level, though its popularity has moved property owners to green-light a second phase on a lower level that’s planned to finish this month—with more projects possible in the future. (Robinson wouldn’t divulge how much North American Development Group has been spent on artist commissions but said no expense was spared).

Grayish concrete walls now depict an energetic tapestry of vibrant colors and an eclectic cast of happy shoppers, coffee-sippers, kids, and familiar skyline landmarks.

Said the artist, in a statement: “The inspiration for the art stems from the diverse patrons and people who visit and shop at The Prado. The colors represent the diversity of the people and the line work is the dynamic personalities of the people.”

The result, said Robinson, has filled the space with energy.

“The response from our tenants and patrons has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “It’s not often that people get inspired from the art in a parking garage.”

Maybe they’re onto something in Sandy Springs.