Photographer by Dustin Chambers
Written by Malaya Velasquez
The city is alive: a cliché or an axiom? The intrigue of cities can be rooted in its seemingly organic, breathing, and developing form. The changing borders, the veins of communication, and the organs carrying specific functions of production, creation, and management: a city is a living body. But what happens when a city’s body strength fades? When keeping a roof over your head becomes top priority debating over the color of the roof and the conditions of the walls that hold it up get seems are far from priority. But a movement in the urban Southern Bell- Atlanta GA- is helping to revitalize neighborhoods suffering from the idea that beauty and creativity is a luxury.
Living Walls Conference 2012 is the world’s first all female street art conference that included lectures, film screening, block parties, bike rides, gallery exhibits and many chances to learn about the work that Living Walls has done in Atlanta, and the and the dream that has catalyzed this budding reality of accessible art and budding beauty between harsh backdrops. According to their Facebook page they are “a nonprofit organization that brings together street artists, academics and the public at large to activate and engage communities.” The description is vague but what they have delivered to their city is very much tangible as is the positive reaction from the communities they have done work within.
In a city with the highest foreclosure rates in the nation, recession hit neighborhoods have seen a change of faces (in some cases literally) on the walls that build their communities. The most recent Living Walls artist roster is all female and from all around the world: EME of Spain, Marina Merlini of Italy, INDIGO from Vancouver, Molly Freeman from Memphis, MYMO from Germany, Tika Tek of Zurich, HYURO from Argentina, FEFE of Brazil, Sten & Lex from Italy,
Miso of Australia, SWOON, and Cake both from NYC and several Local Atlanta Artist’s: Paper Twins, Olive 47, Sarah Emerson, Nikita Gale, Sheila Pree Bright, & Karen Tauches.
While graffiti, and much PDA (Public Displays of Art) not affiliated with the City’s Culture Department are usually considered acts of rebellious self-expression, or a try for the infamous. Living Walls’ motive is far from mere rebellion and ‘defacing of public property,” if anything it is rebellion against urban decay, and an act of faith for the neighborhoods themselves. Reminding them that beauty is not too good for anyone, art is not privileged or private: it is the voice of the community. Bolstering this feeling is the fact that all the art on display respects the owner’s permission and city permits. The 28 surfaces presented to the artists, these canvases range from the sides of foreclosed homes, to subway underpasses.
For three years in a row Living Walls has explored uncharted territories by doing the daring and asking why not? Why not challenge the idea of graffiti vs. art, why not challenge the identity of Atlanta and its neighborhoods often overlooked, why not challenge the idea that street art is a boy’s world, why not challenge the idea that art is inaccessible? In this living organism that is the art world, that is Atlanta, that is Street Art, that is public space, that is community; the living walls dared to cure maladies rather than allow it to be ignored under the band-aid of the morbid acceptance of sickness and normality.
For more on The Living Walls Conference go to livingwallsconference.com