Living Walls conference canceled for 2015

Living Walls, the Atlanta nonprofit that has brought local and international graffiti artists and muralists together to create works of art on the city’s buildings every summer since 2011, will not hold its conference this year.

The group’s efforts can be seen downtown, in the Fourth Ward, in Decatur and other intown neighborhoods, where dozens of murals brighten the streets.

But Living Walls ran into trouble in 2012 when two murals, one featuring a woman in various states of undress, prompted criticism from a few vocal residents. Some of those critics took up rollers and trays and painted over the offending artwork.

“We made some mistakes” said executive director Monica Campana.

Last year the city of Atlanta proposed an ordinance to regulate public art on private property. Discussion of the legislation at a city council meeting last November prompted a renewed wave of harsh criticism of Living Walls, both by council members and neighborhood activists.

“I’m one of the ones who painted over the wall,” said Johnny Floyd, of the Pittsburgh Civic League, speaking up at the meeting. “And we’d be more than happy to do it again, unless you come and speak to us.”

The ordinance was tabled and the city created a committee to study the issue.

Campana said the criticism did not push the group to cancel this summer’s conference, but admitted the group was “naive” about reaction to its work.

“We grew too fast,” she said. “We still have a lot to learn.”

Campana said the group will try to restore its relationship with the city council and improve its connections to neighborhood groups. She said it’s a good sign that a Living Walls representative is part of the city-appointed committee considering the legislation.

In the meantime, Campana, who is the heart of the organization, will spend the next 10 months in Philadelphia, working with that city’s acclaimed Mural Arts Program.