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‘Living Walls’ Speaks Out Through Street Art

By Sonia Guzner Posted: 08/22/2011
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While most students were back home enjoying summer vacation, street artists from around the world transformed the walls of Atlanta. Earlier this month, a group of over 50 prominent street artists from seven different countries gathered in Atlanta for the second annual “Living Walls, the City Speaks” three-day convention.

Founded by Monica Campana and Blacki Li Rudi Migliozzi in 2009, Living Walls is an annual public conference about street art and urbanism. The conference includes a series of lectures, a main gallery show and the murals themselves.

All events are free of charge and open to the public. Through the medium of street art, Living Walls works to promote appreciation and support among the public towards its surroundings. This year, the conference bestowed upon the city of Atlanta 24 awe-inspiring murals.

Whether a particular work aims to convey a social or political message, or simply create a piece of art for the city, the new murals crafted throughout Atlanta are making people stop and look at their neighborhoods.

“Many people in this city drive in tunnel vision from one place to another,” said Pablo Gnecco, a participating artist. “I think the main thing that Living Walls accomplishes is getting people to notice their surroundings more.”

Peruvian artists Entes and Pésimo arrived in Atlanta with just that intention. After surveying the area around the wall of their mural-to-be — the old Spanish Harlem Restaurant on Edgewood Avenue —, the artists decided to depict a mother and son.

The child lies in the mother’s arms and both hold a sad, yet hopeful look in their eyes. The juxtaposition of the mural’s vivid colors against the dingy yellow of the eroding wall also instills this sense of hope.

The mural draws attention to the appalling degree of poverty prevailing under the bridges of Edgewood. Entes and Pésimo created an image that was not only beautiful, but also relevant to the area’s issues.

The street art created through Living Walls is completely legal. Artists show the building owners a sketch of what they plan to do. And then agreements are made, contracts signed and permits allotted to authorize the mural’s production.

The projects had to take these precautions due to their similarities with illegal graffiti tagging.

While both street art and tagging often use the medium of spray paint, street art conveys ideas, depicts thought-provoking images and stands for more than just showing off a name.

Starting in April, the Living Walls team worked diligently to organize this year’s conference; from finding sponsors and coordinating travel arrangements to housing and feeding the artists.

“It was insane,” said Jenae Roseen, a member of the team and SCAD student. The success of Living Walls relied entirely on funding from sponsors and donations.

With the support of the public, this year’s conference nearly doubled the number of both participating artists and murals produced compared to its launch last August.

— Contact Sonia Guzner.

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