From the gladiator at Clarke Central High School and the tiger at Coile Middle School to the flag of Mexico in the main dining hall of Prince Avenue Agua Linda, Will Eskridge’s murals have become a staple of public art in Athens.
Last month, Eskridge was commissioned to paint two murals at Bojangles on Atlanta Highway, one inside and one covering the wall at the entrance to the drive-thru restaurant. The driving piece would be his 10th overall and his very first outdoor project. But soaring temperatures posed a challenge.
Since the busiest times at Bojangles were between 7am and 1pm, Eskridge was only able to start during the hottest hours of the day, which at times reached 102 degrees during the June 21-28 period, when the fresco 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.”
Since the restaurant is open until 10 p.m. each day, Eskridge was able to take breaks in the air conditioning and restaurant staff came out regularly to check on him. Eskridge said he also accepted free food and drink offers on work days.
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When the home stretch came, Eskridge brought in his brother, Rame, to help fill in some of the larger areas of the mural, which depicts University of Georgia footballers receiving several items from the menu item. “UGA Big Bo Box” launched. in the air by a giant cartoon chicken.
Lela Dinakaran, marketing and community relations manager for the restaurant’s location, contacted several local artists for mural design proposals and was eager to respond 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’s all over town, and Will’s concept was exactly what I had in mind.”
Dinakaran said Athens-Clarke County requires a sign permit for any art depicting a business, and Eskridge has worked with local government to ensure everything goes through the approval process. From the Bojangles side, Dinakaran said the marketing board was very supportive of the project and the UGA also approved the design.
Dinakaran’s family owns Bojangles franchises in Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, and they said they strive to bring that closeness to restaurants with like-minded staff and customers. The ethos of hospitality also extended to the work with Eskridge on the mural.
“I told the Atlanta Highway team that Will is part of the family and helping him with whatever he needs,” Dinakaran said. “They developed a real friendship with Will during that time, which was so nice to see.”
Eskridge is currently in talks with Agua Linda’s location on Timothy Road to create a mural at the restaurant. To see more of his art, visit www.willeskridge.com.