Tech men’s hoops teams up with Art in the Paint

Jordan Usher (top right) and Michael Devoe (second to top right) pose with members of Art in the Paint and local youth during the court unveiling. // Photo courtesy of UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare, Art in the Paint and members of the Tech men’s basketball team joined forces to give back to the community on Sept. 9. The event unveiled a newly refurbished and beautified court and offered a free basketball clinic for children in the local community. The new court is located in Rose Circle Park, near the West End Beltline, and the event is part of a larger initiative to create safe spaces for exercise in underserved communities.

Art in the Paint is a local organization whose main goal is to build community and public health through community art. They work to find spaces that need revitalization before connecting artists, community leaders and funding in order to improve and beautify the space.

From their website, artinthepaint.org, they identify three root problems that they aim to fix with their work.

Dangerous court conditions and a lack of proximity to community resources are two major ones, but the second problem listed on the site is most directly helped by the mural-clad courts.

The website describes that problem, saying, “Communities are often in the middle of food deserts and have little to no access to healthy foods, physical exercise classes/groups, and up-lifting messages.”

They aim to solve these issues by physically repairing courts, install social justice murals at each project site and work locally to “create programming and bring resources to the community directly.”

UnitedHealthcare provided the funding for this project, donating $25,000 and sending representatives to help at the unveiling of the new court. Dr. Toyosi Okurounmu, Chief Medical Officer of UnitedHealthcare of Georgia, was present to give tips about health and wellness to the attending community members.

The artist whose mural covered the court is local muralist Elaine Stephenson. She has done work for the West End area before and has works featured in other notable areas of Atlanta, including Old Fourth Ward and Atlantic Station. Her art and information can be found on her website, elainestephenson.com.

Part of Art in the Paint’s process is to include local community leaders in the installation and unveiling, with two members of Tech’s men’s basketball team filling that role for this event. Senior guard Michael Devoe and senior forward Jordan Usher joined for the ribbon cutting ceremony and led the basketball clinic for a handful of local kids afterward. Junior guard Coleman Boyd was originally expected to be in attendance as well, but appeared to be unable attend the event.

The players coached the youth for a while at the clinic, moving through drills in various skills. Devoe and Usher, arguably Tech’s two best returning players, are strong choices for the event as both athletes and community leaders. With their faces on billboards across Atlanta during basketball season, they serve as elite athletes and recognizable sights in local sports.

They both seemed to enjoy the opportunity to give back to the community. Usher in particular talked about the impact of the event, saying, “UnitedHealthcare and Art in the Paint are doing something huge. Not only do we have a refurbished court to play on, but [also] one that’s painted and looks beautiful.”

Usher shared Art in the Paint’s concern about access to athletic facilities.

“It’s always a plus when you can get outside on a free court with your friends, and it makes it even better and sweeter when it looks as good as this one,” said Usher.

UnitedHealthcare passed out safety kits at the event, containing hand sanitizer, wipes and other products that can help with community health. The kits will allow the community to remain safe on and off the court and allow them to enjoy the recent investment into their space.

Devoe and Usher took time to take pictures with the kids and organizers during the event, helping to boost awareness of the project. Organizers, community members and players alike enjoyed the event, and Rose Circle Park is now home to a new well maintained court complete with a mural.