Aya Tower in downtown East Point will soon welcome residents to their new homes. As part of its redevelopment, the building’s exterior will feature art to honor someone whose service had significant impact toward the city’s present successes.
Housing Developer The Vecino Group and the East Point Housing Authority (EPHA), partners on the redevelopment, have commissioned a mural honoring former East Point Mayor Patsy Jo Hilliard.
“In addition to providing affordable homes, Aya Tower offered a unique opportunity to create something truly positive and impactful through art. Being able to connect the Vecino Group’s Creative team with East Point Public Arts Coordinator Christopher Swain really was the spark,” said Michael Spann, EPHA Executive Director.
Through her public service from 1993 through 2006, Mayor Hillard was instrumental in uniting the community to enable enduring positive impact: revitalizing the public library, delivering the city’s first community health clinic, and fostering relationships with civic and business leaders to bring growth opportunities to East Point just to name a few. Its longest-tenured Mayor to date, in 1993 she made history as the first female and first African-American to hold the office in the history of East Point—as well for the State of Georgia.
Additionally, Mayor Hilliard and her late husband Asa Hilliard were life-long educators, which included teaching students in both Ghana and Liberia beginning in 1964.
“Mayor Hilliard was—and is—a people-minded leader for East Point, so it’s especially meaningful to be able to honor her on Aya Tower,” said Christopher Swain.
The artwork—created by Atlanta-based artist Erica Chisolm—combines Adinkra symbols with a vibrant portrait of Mayor Hilliard as well as her favorite saying “Be True To Thyself”. The team also includes the Atlanta-based art collective Living Walls, who specialize in large-scale, culturally-inspired public art. The seven-story piece—all painted by hand—is scheduled for late Spring.
Mayor Hilliard, with her daughter Robi by her side, received the news of the honor earlier this month.
Upon seeing the artwork she said “I can’t believe it. But it wasn’t just me. There were so many people—everyone worked together to accomplish things. My goodness. I am just overwhelmed.”
Though there were many opportunities to highlight the community of East Point through something visual, to Vecino Group Chief Creative Officer Patrick McWhirt featuring Mayor Hillard seemed almost meant to be.
“Our mission is ‘development for the greater good’, which means each Vecino development should deliver more for its community.” said McWhirt. “This mural will reach hundreds of people each day via Main Street, the MARTA as well as the students of Tri-Cities High School. The opportunity to honor and share such an inspiring life with so many people through art is incredible.”
The name “Aya” comes from a symbol representing “strength and endurance” in the ancient Adinkra alphabet from West Africa. The new Aya Tower will provide 88 brand new homes (72 one bedroom and 16 two bedroom units) with affordable rents set at 40% – 60% average median income (AMI) and is on schedule to open Summer of 2023.
Marcus McKinney, Vecino Group Development Project Manager, is excited for the energy that Aya will bring to the center of East Point. “Successful developments obviously require the efforts of many—this mural is a perfect example of that level of teamwork.”