From the gladiator at Clarke Central High School and the tiger at Coile Middle School to the Mexican flag in the main dining area of the Prince Avenue Agua Linda site, Will Eskridge’s murals have become a staple of Athens public art.
Last month, Eskridge was commissioned to paint two murals at Bojangles on Atlanta Highway, one inside and one covering the wall at the restaurant’s drive-thru entrance. The drive-thru piece would be his tenth overall and his very first outdoor project. But rising temperatures presented a challenge.
Because the busiest times in Bojangles were between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m., Eskridge wasn’t able to get going until the hottest parts of the day, which sometimes reached 102 degrees during the June 21-28 period, when the mural was completed.
“It was hotter than 40, as my dad would say,” Eskridge told the Banner-Herald. “I taped an umbrella to the scissor lift and brought plenty of water.”
Because the restaurant stays open until 10 p.m. daily, Eskridge was able to take breaks in the air conditioning, and restaurant staff regularly went outside to check on him. Eskridge said he also approached her about offers of free food and drink during workdays.
When the final stretch came, Eskridge brought in his brother Rame to help fill in some of the larger areas of the mural, which shows University of Georgia football tailgaters being treated to several items from the UGA Big Bo Box menu item launched by a giant cartoon chicken in the air.
Lela Dinakaran, director of marketing and community relations for the restaurant site, reached out to several local artists for wall design suggestions and responded strongly to Eskridge’s ideas.
“I moved to Athens just before UGA won the SEC Championship and was very inspired by the city’s support for the team,” Dinakaran said. “I wanted to combine that with the art that can be found all over the city, and Will’s concept was exactly what I had in mind.”
Dinakaran said Athens-Clarke County requires a drawing permit for any art depicting a business, and Eskridge has worked with the local government to ensure everything goes through the permitting process. On the corporate side of Bojangles, Dinakaran said the marketing committee was very supportive of the project and UGA also approved the design.
Dinakaran’s family owns Bojangles franchises in Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, and she said they strive to bring that closeness to the restaurants with employees and customers. The ethic of hospitality extended to collaborating with Eskridge on the mural.
“I told the Atlanta Highway team that Will is part of the family and should help him with whatever he needs,” Dinakaran said. “They developed a real friendship with Will during that time, which was so great to see.”
Eskridge is currently in talks with the Agua Linda site on Timothy Road to create a mural at the restaurant. To see more of his art, visit www.willeskridge.com.