​Greg Mike Reflects on a Decade in ATL’s Art Scene

An artist, designer, gallery owner, and Justin Bieber collaborator knows Atlanta's art scene like no other.

by Caroline Cox
Mar 28 2016, 7:34pm

Photo courtesy of Greg Mike

Greg Mike is the guy behind ... well, a lot of art-centric stuff in Atlanta. He's an artist (particularly well-known for his Larry Loudmouf creation, which made an appearance in a mural collab he did with Justin Bieber), a designer, and owner of gallery and creative agency ABV. He's got bright-colored murals splashed up all over the city, and new projects in the works that aim to elevate and expand on ATL's growing public street-art scene—painting it forward, if you will.

VICE: What brought you to Atlanta?
Greg Mike: I went to college at Florida State, and I used to come up to Atlanta on the weekends because it was the closest major metropolitan city. I would come up here for the nightlife and was going out a lot in the city, and I fell in love with it and the vibe and the people. That was back when Buckhead actually had a scene before the police shut it down. There were a lot of different bars and clubs up there, the streets were packed. Once they shut that down, things started moving to the Eastside, Westside, and Edgewood. I decided to move here after I graduated and I've been here ever since—around 10 years now.

What do you have in the works right now?
I have a few murals in Atlanta that are gonna be going up soon, and we have a big mural festival that we and [music venue] Terminal West produce on the Westside called Outer Space Project. We did it last year and produced 16 murals all over the city. It culminates to a big arts and music block party at the end of the week called The Big Bang, so that's coming up in June. I have a big group show we're doing at ABV this spring with 45 contemporary artists from all over the globe as well as some local guys, it'll be our largest group show to date. It's 45 artists all doing 24-by-24-inch pieces. In terms of the agency side with ABV, we're doing installations and things at different music festivals—we're doing work with Shaky Beats, a new music festival under the Shaky Knees family. When it warms up we usually start doing a bunch of projects outdoors.

Favorite neighborhoods?
Definitely Inman Park and the Westside. The Westside's got a bunch of good little restaurants over there like Bocado, Octane, Le Fat, Bartaco, that whole area's cool. Inman Park's got Barcelona, BeetleCat and their own Bartaco too.

Where do you tend to hang out?
Our studio space, gallery and agency is located right near the BeltLine, so we're frequently hitting all the spots around there. Ammazza Pizza in Old Fourth Ward has a good little bar scene and good pies. For outdoor day drinking or brunch, Ladybird is cool with a good vibe and outdoor setting right off the BeltLine. For live music, Terminal West is the best venue in town for smaller shows.

What about outdoor spots?
Lake Burton's cool for wakeboarding, and it's not too far away. I went to this place not too long ago that was pretty rad for hiking called Panther Creek hiking trail. It's cool, it's like an hour and 40 minutes away by car. It's a pretty crazy hike trail with a sweet waterfall. It's a good spot for a day trip.

How have you seen the city's arts scene evolve since you've been here?
When I moved here there wasn't much public art. There was a lot of graffiti, and there still is a strong graffiti scene, but it's definitely from a street art, mural aspect. It's grown tremendously with some of the public art projects, and groups like Living Walls have made a huge impression on the city in terms of street art. They've brought a lot of artists into town and [encouraged] local artists to take their own initiative to produce walls and murals. Between that and things like our Outer Space Project, it seems like Atlanta is becoming a well-known place for street art and for artists to paint in. Even just fans of the street art community come here to take pictures and enjoy it. These programs, [along with] city- and privately-funded programs, have helped translate blank walls into canvases.

What's the value of artists continuing to create here instead of other metropolitan cities?
It helps aid in the growth of the city. It makes people get out of their house and visit areas in different locations. One of the taglines for the Outer Space Project is "Explore the creative unknown." With that project we tried to put murals not just in a centralized location where there might already be street art, but we tried to spread it as much around the city as possible to get people out of their homes and into different neighborhoods that they normally wouldn't go into, and get them to explore and search for these pieces of art around their city. There's millions of people in larger cities like New York and LA who are doing it, so it's important to keep it at home and keep growing Atlanta. I think we've seen how it's helped develop different neighborhoods and bring businesses into different areas they wouldn't normally be in. It helps open people's eyes to their city.

Where should someone go for a quick-and-dirty feel for the city's arts scene?
I would suggest, if they're looking for outdoor art, to check out the mural map Living Walls' website as well as the Outer Space Project website. There's a ton of different outdoor locations to find. In terms of galleries, I'd suggest checking out ABV, Kai Lin Art and other small boutique galleries.

Read the entire VICE Guide to Atlanta here.