France-Atlanta 2017 Off to a High Flying Start (10-20-2017)

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The 8th France-Atlanta program already has taken off in the air with the beginning of the work on a 140-foot mural installation by the artist Jo Di Bona downtown and on the ground with the French American Chamber of Commerce’s Crystal Peach Awards held at the the Georgia Tech Wardlaw Center.

French artist Jo Di Bona with Adrian Barzaga of ELEVATE

Once again the Consulate General of France and theGeorgia Institute of Technology are collaborating on a line up of events across a wide spectrum of science, culture, humanitarian affairs and business for the 2017 version of the annual program that aims to foster cooperation between France and the U.S. Southeast.

The 42-year-old Parisian Jo Di Bona may be seen atop a mobile and mechanized scaffolding at 57 Peachtree SWwhere he is applying with his unique method of stenciling, spray painting and collaging the faces of three children on the upper-story facade of a Payless shoe store.

“I have chosen the faces of three children to represent their hope for the future,” he told Global Atlanta. “Two will be looking into water with expressions of what will become of mankind, and the third will be looking straight ahead questioning what is to be done.”

Although he began spray painting images when he was only age 14, he wasn’t able to fully engage himself in his artwork until four years ago because graffiti was illegal throughout France.

His fiancee Amelie encouraged him to put aside his musical career as a singer and guitarist once the the laws loosened and his skill could be appreciated.

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015, some of the neighborhoods actually encouraged the artists to express their feelings through their art. The 10th “arrondissement” recognized that the process helped heal not only the artists themselves but its residents and set apart a “wall of love” that provided large spaces for several graffiti artists to express themselves.

Mr. Di Bona told the New York Times that he felt it was an important if a painful catharsis to participate in the project. For the “mur de l’amour” he adapted Eugene Delacroix’s 1839 painting Liberty Leading the People. He said that he purposefully rendered the subjects almost faceless so the image could “represent all French people.”

His collaborations in the past also have included work with a number of non-profit organizations such as Street Art for Mankind, a global initiative to end child slavery through art, and Premiere Urgency Internationale, which helps victims of war, natural disaster and poverty as well as projects on behalf of the United Nations.

He said that he was contacted by the Consulate General to participate in France Atlanta while working on a project in Miami. Confessing that he “loves the United States,” he immediately accepted the offer to work in conjunction with ELEVATE, Atlanta’s annual public art festival.

Meanwhile, the French American Chamber of Commerce, held its Crystal Peach Awards on Oct. 18 honoring the outward investment to France of U.S. companies and the investment into the U.S. of French companies.


Pascal Gouteix, FACC president; Marie Laumont, FACC executive director; Steve Voorhees, CEO, Westrock; Leslie Thompson, owner and CEO, Fermob; Mayor Kasim Reed, and Marcos Ruiz Guijosa, COO, Suez Advanced Solutions North America.

Westrock, the manufacturer of packaging solutions which has a subsidiary in Beauvais, France, earning a profit of 60 million euros last year and employing more than 400 received the Economic Development Award for Outbound Investment. Steve Voorhees, chief executive officer since 2015 and formerly CEO of RockTenn prior to its merging with MeadWestvaco, accepted  the award on behalf of the company.

The Economic Development Award for Inbound Investment went to  Suez Advanced Solutions North America, that  expanded its presence in the United States with a new water management contract in New York State and moved its headquarters from Perry to Atlanta. Marcos Ruiz Guijosa, chief operating office of Suez, accepted the award.

Leslie Thompson, chief operating officer of Fermob USA, won the Innovation Award for the company’s success in distributing across the U.S. contemporary outdoor furnishings and home decor including classic French bistro chairs.

Mayor Kasim Reed gave the keynote address highlighting the ties linking Atlanta to France and the success of the France Atlanta program over the  years.

To learn more about upcoming France Atlanta programs, click here.

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