Meet The Former Pro Basketball Player Whose Art-Based Community Organization Caught the Attention of Lil Baby and Foot Locker
Credit: Arelious Cooper, Jr.

When Arelious Cooper, Jr. took a jog around the Stone Mountain trail last year, the Atlanta native didn’t expect his life to change. 

“An older woman was also on the trail and we struck up a conversation about the history of the mountain and its carvings on the side,” he said. “I was livid with what I saw.” 

Those carvings he’s referring to depict Confederate Gens. Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee and president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, on horseback. 

“Everything in me wanted to destroy what I saw,” Cooper said. “But simultaneously, I also realized how important it was to create my own type of monuments that will make people feel the opposite of what I felt in that moment. I wanted to evoke joy.” 

That’s when the idea of Art in the Paint came about. 

After the former professional athlete spent most of his career traveling the world, playing in some of the greatest arenas overseas, Cooper wanted to provide the grandeur of that experience to fellow basketball lovers back home. 

Art in the Paint collaborates with other service providers and local artists to revitalize and renovate underutilized basketball courts with scenic murals that serve as beautiful backdrops for those playing on them.  

The first organization of its kind, in less than two years Cooper has managed to spread his mission on a global scale.  

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“By the end of next year we’ll have a court in every continent,” Cooper said, referring to the structures he’s already built in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and the Dominican Republic among others. 

His organization has also caught the attention of major players in the entertainment industry like platinum-selling recording artist Lil Baby. 

“Foot Locker was looking to secure a court for Lil Baby to play on in his old Atlanta neighborhood and contacted us,” he said. “It was really special because he came back to the place that raised him. They were so proud. And we were a part of that.”  

Although Art in the Paint has enjoyed immense success, its growth hasn’t come without its challenges. Cooper said a key component of their growth is counteracting some of the hesitancy gentrification has caused the residents in the areas. 

“It took us a bit of time to earn the trust of the residents,” Cooper explained. We had to make sure we built good relationships with people that were previously distrustful of new people coming into their neighborhood, with good reason.” 

He said Art in the Paint regularly organizes events that address the community’s needs. For instance, the organization recently launched a voter registration event that garnered more than 300 attendees. 

The former Fulton County Youth Commissioner also owns two developmental basketball franchises, both named the Metro Ballers, of the Women’s United Basketball Association (WUBA) and the United Basketball Association (UBA). They offer young athletes the opportunity to compete in tournaments and develop key skills like teamwork, communication and passion all while in their own backyards. 

“A lot of these kids need places to go that are dedicated to making their neighborhoods a greater place to live, but there aren’t always enough resources for that,” he explained. “My mission for Art in Paint is to be that community center they deserve, without walls.”