Ovation: Atlanta’s Living Walls.
In 1976, as part of the nation’s bicentennial celebration, my hometown commissioned a mural to be painted on the side of one of the downtown neighborhood’s historic buildings. It depicted scenes from the history of the village from the early settlers through the industrial revolution of the area. During the painting of the mural, students from my high school were invited to participate which allowed them to leave their mark on the town.
Similarly, twenty artists converged on Atlanta this month as a part of the city’s fourth annual Living Walls project. The goal of the artists is to put art in the streets, in places where it usually isn’t found, with the hope of sparking a conversation and making people think.
The artists, ten local and ten international, work primarily in the rundown Summerhill neighborhood near downtown Atlanta’s Turner Field, home to the Atlanta Braves. The neighborhood includes many vacant buildings and empty lots which are rented for parking during baseball games.
“It’s been so dead around here. It’s beautiful where it used to be desolate. It brings everything alive.” – Reandra Davis, 62, under an umbrella in a lot where she has sold parking spaces for thirty-five years.
The murals were so large in some cases that the artists used cherry pickers to move around, stopping to spray and paint as the art moved them.
“You can take your art and it can become part of real life. When you place it in a certain environment, it becomes a part of the daily lives of the people that live in the space.” – Israeli artist Know Hope, 27.
Conference organizers provided the equipment and materials and worked to secure permission to install the art. Unlike graffiti, these murals are legal. Locals don’t’ see them as messing up the buildings but more as art that makes them more beautiful. As part of the annual gathering, Living Walls hosts parties, lectures and a bike tour of the newly painted walls.
The Bicentennial Mural in my hometown is still there. It’s been touched up more than once over the years and a nice little park has installed beside it offering a place to sit and study the art while thinking about the history of the town and the people involved over the years.
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