Since 2012, Lauren (Pallotta) Stumberg has been living and working as an artist in Atlanta, Georgia. The 1999 graduate of Winchester High School has artwork, including a 90×90 mural, all over Atlanta. Lauren works as a designer, muralist, illustrator, and creative consultant. She also started Think Greatly as a platform to help organize female-driven projects. Once a stranger to the local art scene, Lauren has continued working on her craft and was named the 2017 City of Atlanta “Emerging Artist Award.” Lauren’s most proud moment also came in 2017 when she became a mother. Whenever Lauren is back in town, she makes sure that D’Agastino’s is her first stop. To see Lauren’s artwork and learn more about her projects, check out her website: thinkgreatly.com.
Was there a favorite moment, person or experience at WHS that you remember that has helped you find your passions or reach your goals?
I had a lot of great moments at WHS; I was fortunate to be involved in several activities, from musical theatre to a state championship soccer team. I also had the opportunity to travel twice during my senior year, first to Italy with humanities and then to Spain with AP Spanish. Those enriching experiences indeed influenced my study abroad choices in college as well as my decision to live and work abroad for most of my 20s. But my greatest solace was in the art room with Mr. Ardito. He cultivated my love for painting and created a safe and inclusive space for all of us.
What was the path you took to get where you are today?
My path has been circuitous and unmarked – definitely not as the crow flies! After graduating from the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art and Design in 2003, I traveled to the Marshall Islands to be a volunteer teacher for one year. I ended up spending five years over the course of eight living and working in the Marshall Islands in various capacities related to education, international development, and art. In 2010, a group of international multi-disciplinary artists living on Majuro decided to form an art collective, Jambo Arts, where we hosted two exhibitions per year. That was a very prolific time for me; I started painting seriously and reclaiming my identity as an artist. From there I was offered the opportunity to live in Sicily, which I treated as a long-term residency and focused my time on producing work and honing my artistic voice.
When I came to Atlanta in 2012, I was a complete stranger to the local art scene. I made friends by going to networking events, gallery openings and getting involved in local arts-related organizations. Soon enough I befriended a local wallkeeper who curated the murals on a specific street in an artistically vibrant neighborhood. I sent him a photo of a painting I had done and asked for wall space. He gave it to me! That was in 2014. The image is of two legs with the feet pointed inward, expressing the vulnerability I was feeling at the time–cultural displacement, insecurity, financial instability–while also celebrating the opportunity to translate my work on a large scale. There is an Italian expression, “Sempre in gamba,” which literally means “to be in leg” but colloquially translates to being capable and keeping up the good work. It seemed fitting subject matter.
From there, I was hooked on murals and wanted to find more opportunities to paint them. Many of those opportunities initially came through city and county funding in the form of grants. I started Think Greatly as a platform to curate female-driven projects and collaborations as part of my personal practice and to facilitate community projects through my social practice. In the past few years I have worked with several Atlanta neighborhoods as part of their beautification and placemaking efforts. My latest mural, “Persephone Rising,” a collaboration with artists Laura Vela, Lela Brunet and Molly Rose Freeman, is my most recent milestone: a 90x 90+ft mural on the outside of a parking garage along the Atlanta Beltline.
Is there insight or advice you can share with current students?
Think greatly. Be diligent. Enjoy the work that you do – happiness is everything! Don’t expect it to be easy, and don’t feel entitled to success. Be humble. Encourage each other; success comes from making allies, not enemies. Everything takes work and persistence. When there are “gatekeepers” that get in the way of your dreams, forge your own path. Believe in yourself and your value – if you don’t, no one else will.