City of Residence: Marietta
Volunteer Work: Secretary and chair of TrailFest 2020, mural artist on Marietta Square, member of Marietta Arts Council
Honors: Third Place in Best of Cobb for Art Gallery in The Loft’s inaugural year
Education: 2017 Graduate of Agnes Scott College, Magna Cum Laude
Anyone who has visited the Marietta Square over the past few years has undoubtedly noticed one, sometimes very big, change: murals.
At just 24 years old, Stokes O’Shields is the artist as well as the worker bee behind many of those murals. A member of the Marietta Arts Council and chair of TrailFest, which brought the beloved murals to the Square in 2018, O’Shields helped to bring the council’s vision of public art to life by commissioning artists through her artist network; helping her mother, Lindsey O’Shields, paint many of the murals herself; and making sure the murals were on-time, on-budget and “en pointe.” (Que the enormous en pointe ballerina mural that adorns the side of Georgia Dance Conservatory that the mother-daughter duo created.)
“I have a passion for the arts and especially for public art, and I have wanted street art to come to Marietta since I was young,” O’Shields said. She currently lives in Vinings but is beginning work this year on building a home on her family’s property on Kennesaw Avenue in Marietta.
The 2017 graduate of Agnes Scott College studied history and art history, focusing on presenting art in the public sphere during her senior year. Sharing her artistic vision with the community is exactly what she does in her capacity as a member of the arts council and, professionally, as gallery director at The Loft art gallery on the Square.
O’Shields’ main tasks at The Loft include sourcing contemporary fine art to exhibit, primarily from the more than 20 artists she describes as part of the “gallery family.” She selects and curates a new show each month, which premieres during Art Walk on the first Friday of each month. She also develops marketing materials for the artists, promotes the gallery as a private event venue and assists collectors in locating pieces suited to their tastes.
“Whether it’s someone’s first time or 100th time in the gallery, I want them to have a unique and enjoyable experience when visiting ours,” she said.
Her biggest project coming up is the next M2R TrailFest, on May 9 (the perfect Mother’s Day outing). The council first partnered with the City of Marietta in 2018 to develop a festival celebrating the arts in multiple parks and along the newly opened Mountain to River Trail, which will connect Kennesaw Mountain to the Chattahoochee River, when complete. The council is focused on the section that runs from Lewis Park, through the Marietta Square, and ending at Brown Park.
TrailFest is a full day arts celebration with live music, dance, performance art, the debut of new murals, a sculpture tour, a mile-long exhibition of fine art and photography from local artists that runs along the railroad tracks, and demonstrations and interactive art experiences.
“We wanted to affect a positive change to the community, and I couldn’t be prouder of what the arts council has achieved and how the community has embraced this new facet of Marietta life,” she said. “I can’t wait to see where the public art initiative goes from here.”
If you would like to celebrate these honorees, please join us for The Cobb Life List: 20 Under 40 Awards Celebration on Thursday, Jan. 9 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Earl and Rachel Smith Strand Theatre. Tickets include the the fun awards program and a reception immediately following can be purchased by visiting cobblifemagazine.com/list.