A painting can liven up a room, but what about a city?
Each year street artists from around the world come to Atlanta to turn walls into canvases for their colorful, provocative expressions.
It’s all part of a continuous effort by the nonprofit organization Living Walls: The City Speaks, founded in 2009 by street artists Monica Campana and Blacki Li Rudi Migliozzi. They had the idea that the power of art could change perspectives about the public spaces in our communities. Every year, they invite local, national and international artists to town for 10 days to paint the walls of the city, followed by a four-day conference.
This year, 18 artists have been painting murals around Atlanta since Aug. 4, and the fifth Living Walls Conference kicks off Aug. 13. Events include lectures, an outdoor film screening, a bicycle tour of murals and the “Main Event,” an art and music extravaganza at the The Goat Farm Arts Center.
Two years ago, a couple of Living Walls’ murals angered members of the communities in which they were painted. Since then the organization has striven to adhere to public art ordinances and work with neighborhood associations to prevent a repeat of past controversies.
“Every year we learn something,” said Campana. “There’s a huge advantage to every challenge.”
Nevertheless, “it’s public art and it’s not going to please everyone,” she said.
Atlanta city council members have recently discussed changes to the public art ordinance that would require individuals get approval from from multiple city departments and neighbors before placing public art on private property. Campana hopes Living Walls will have input in changes to the legislation.
She also hopes the city recognizes the impact of Living Walls and “sees how vital this is to the city.”
The business community appears to value the initiative. In years past, visiting artists have slept on air mattresses at the Goat Farm and dined on homemade meals prepared by volunteers. This year, they’re staying in discounted rooms at the W Hotel in Buckhead and being fed donated meals from local restaurants, including Empire State South and Chipotle.
“We are really spreading culture in a different way — open, free and approachable,” said Campana.