No Living Walls Conference for 2015

Public mural nonprofit takes a sabbatical; executive director Monica Campana takes a job in Philadelphia


  • Boulevard Tunnel redesigned by New Orleans artist MOMO

Living Walls announced today that it would skip programming both its Living Walls Concepts series and its annual conference in 2015.

“I think that we finished 2014 feeling really happy and thankful for the projects that we did,” says Living Walls Executive Director Monica Campana. “The [|Boulevard Tunnel] project was great. It probably showed the most community engagement and had the biggest impact. ... When the issues we’re seeing with the city council and public art ordinance being talked about came up is when we started to talk about our our goals and impact. We wanted to make sure that whatever projects we did really had a plan from beginning to end and that we knew what we were trying to accomplish. We weren’t going to figure that out by 2015. It was a reoccurring problem. Gathering all that information in six months is just not enough time.”

Since its inaugural conference in 2010, Living Walls has created more than 100 murals throughout Atlanta, including work by high-profile international artists such as JR and locals such as HENSE. In 2014, Living Walls announced a partnership with Google to preserve street art through documentation.

But the organization has its detractors. There are many in Atlanta that think the organization should focus more heavily on local artists. A handful of the murals have sparked heated debates in local neighborhoods and raised the question of whether or not Living Walls actually serves the communities in which it works. The mural nonprofit has also repeatedly butted heads with the Atlanta City Council and the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs over the process for installing public art on private property.

A committee is currently being formed to help rewrite the ordinance over the next few months. A Living Walls board member has been nominated for the committee. All nominees must be approved by City Council.

“The new public art ordinance will probably be written by July. We see a lot of hope for 2016,” Campana says. “I think we just needed a break for a minute. In terms of people saying there’s not enough Atlanta artists, we think we’re doing the right thing and people are not seeing it that way. … Maybe our mission statement should be different. Maybe people are not getting it cause we’re not presenting ourselves properly or we’re not being clear.”

Campana will be spending the next 10 months in Philadelphia working with the city’s acclaimed Mural Arts Program on a new project with curator Pedro Alonzo called Open Source.

“I’m really excited to really learn about their process. They’re an organization that has been doing it for 30 years,” Campana says. “They’ve managed to create jobs for people to do public art. They’re working with kids and in prisons and actually creating change and being an economic force as well.”

Campana says she has every intention to bring back Living Walls in 2016 and points to local contemporary art programming organization Flux, saying “it’s a great example of taking a break and coming back full force with great programming.”

We’re really happy but we need to do it better.”

??Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include information on the the city council’s committee nomination process.