Joseph Veazey, a local graphic designer and artist, talks about his inspiration behind his latest piece, ATL Rap Map, and his new partnership with HOPE Atlanta.
Originally from Lilburn, Joseph Veazey’s compassion for Georgians facing hard times runs as deep as his love for Atlanta culture. At HOPE Atlanta, so does ours. With more than 100 years of history in Atlanta, we were thrilled to see how meticulously Joseph captured Atlanta’s lesser-known history through his latest piece, ATL Rap Map. And we were even more thrilled to learn that he wanted to partner with us.
As Joseph was opening his new design studio, Veazey Studios, he felt compelled to give back to his native community, using his art and platform to raise awareness and funds for homelessness relief. He decided to donate a portion of ATL Rap Map’s print proceeds to HOPE Atlanta, and because we’re Metro Atlanta’s most established agency dedicated to fighting homelessness (with more than 120 years of history), the partnership was a natural fit.
We caught up with Joseph to learn more about his inspiration behind the piece, the creative process, and why he’s using his talents to give back.
HOPE Atlanta: What made you choose HOPE Atlanta as the beneficiary?
Joseph Veazey: We wanted [the nonprofit] to be Atlanta-based. This poster deals with a lot of locations that are gone now, or being gentrified, or have already been gentrified, so we wanted something that could give back in regards to the places the poster is honoring and bringing attention to.
With your history being based in Atlanta, it aligned with what we wanted to do.
HA: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your story?
JV: Since school, I knew I wanted to be an artist, so I ended up going to SCAD for graphic design. I’ve been a graphic designer for about a dozen years.
I worked for Adult Swim here for a bit. I lived in New York for a while when I was freelancing for a bunch of companies up there.
HA: What was the inspiration behind ATL Rap Map, the piece you’re selling in support of HOPE Atlanta?
JV: The poster came about because after working a bunch of corporate jobs and doing freelance work, doing a lot of detailed work and drawings for clients became so time-consuming. I wanted to do something in my own time, something I was passionate about, which is Atlanta-based hip-hop.
I always had this vision of something that commemorated the whole history of hip-hop, and I’ve always loved maps, too. I wanted to make something that would really connect with everyone and be a gift to the city. Something people would be excited about.
HA: What was the process like when you were creating the piece?
JV: It was a three-year process. It took years of research and painting. The original painting is a 2x3 foot acrylic painting with a ton of detail.
I went through every hit song, even minor ones that came out of Atlanta, all the way back to the 80s. Hundreds of songs!
HA: Tell us about the portraits in the painting.
JV: There’s a marker for every rapper that grew up in Atlanta.
The side portraits are basically split up by genre. Those portraits are based on popularity, reach, influence, and things like that. If it’s on the map, it was put there for the music. I wanted to keep it objective and make it a literal illustration of a tradition to music.
HA: What about the landmarks?
JV: It’s all the things that made Atlanta culturally Atlanta in one place, whether they’re gone, or still here, or new. It’s cool to see it all in one place, even if you can’t see it on Google Maps in any other way than through illustration.
A lot of the street names have changed. Night clubs and strip clubs and entertainment venues are gone, along with the Omni and the Georgia dome. There are also some new things on there, like the Icebox Jewelry store in Buckhead. If it’s on the map, it was put there because it was specifically mentioned in the music
HA: Since you grew up near Atlanta, is there anything in the piece that’s personally significant?
JV: There are some fun personal things in it. I have an artist residency down in Adair park right now. When I was playing basketball, we used to come down to Run’ N Shoot, a big 24-hour basketball superplex that’s gone now. It’s a bowling alley now. My great grandparents died in Adair Park. I saw in a census that they were living right down the street. It’s crazy to see how those changes come and go.
HA: Why did you decide to donate some of the poster’s proceeds?
JV: I think anytime you’re making money and it’s connected to a culture, you have to give back in a way. The poster was a way to give back.
I feel like it honors something. It helps lesser-known artists or forgotten artists be discovered. I thought it was important to give back monetarily, too — that some of the proceeds were going directly back to these communities, helping people that have been displaced due to gentrification or other things.
HA: How can someone purchase this piece?
JV: From a decade-long freelance practice, I’ve opened a studio, which is a continuation of the freelance design illustration practice but with more opportunities to grow and take on more projects and assemble teams.
This is our first release. It’s releasing through Veazey Studio, which is my studio, so it will be sold on veazeystudio.com. They’re $32 each plus shipping.
Want to put your HOPE into action, too?
Whether you purchase one of Joseph’s prints to support his and HOPE Atlanta’s work or participate in another #HOPEinActionChallenge, every act of kindness makes a difference for our neighbors in need.