Youth from the East Point-based nonprofit Future Foundationrecently pitched in to decorate the Atlanta Hawks’ newly renovated $192.5 million home, which hosts its first home game Oct. 24.

They were led by Atlanta artist Lillian Blades, who counts honors from the consulate in her native Bahamas and from the National Black Arts Festival among her awards.

“Art is a way that people express themselves when they may not have the words or platform to convey their feelings. I think that it is really important that children are allowed to have that ‘voice,’” she said in a statement after the Sept. 19 event. “Working with the youth provides a chance to connect with and encourage those that are invigorated by art.”

Blades, students and festival artists Charly Palmer, Okeeba Jubalo and Tracy Murrel worked on what a news release called a “massive collage” during a session at the city’s Jefferson Park Recreation Center.

As in Blades’ other work, like “Quilted Passages” commissioned by Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the sixth- through 12th-grade students assembled mixed media materials.

According to the release, fans will be able to see the results for free during an Oct. 20 open house at State Farm Arena, 1 Philips Drive in Atlanta, by registering at

The piece is part of a “True to Atlanta” series conceived by art consultant Amy Parry.

According to information from the consultant, she discovered the nonprofit was founded by former Hawks player Shareef Abdur-Rahim, whose sister is its CEO Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim.

The two women decided there was synergy between Blades’ work and the nonprofit’s goal of providing quality education, health and life skills programs, with which the hoopster agreed.

“(The project) provides us a unique opportunity to expose our youth to the arts and gives them an exciting chance to be part of a permanent mural that will impact the Atlanta community for generations to come,” Shareef Abdur-Rahim said in a statement.

A two-hour workshop can have a big impact, according to Andrea Carter, the team and arena vice president of corporate social responsibility and inclusion.

"This artwork demonstrates what’s possible when communities come together,” she said in a statement. “The collaboration of accomplished local artists and creative young minds to produce a piece of State Farm Arena history embodies what ‘True to Atlanta’ is all about.”

Festival President and CEO Vikki Morrow called the visual art workshop “an amazing arts education experience” for the nonprofit’s consumers.

“For three decades NBAF has advanced the arts and contributions of artists of African descent while reaching back to our youth to develop the next generation of artists of all arts disciplines,” she said in a statement.

According to city spokeswoman Shannon Wiggins, about 30 East Point and College Park students participated.

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