The two of us have just left the street art summer camp that is Atlanta’s Living Walls Conference. Now in its fourth year, Living Walls is one of the most established street art festivals in the world, and they have helped to break artists like Jaz, Roa, Gaia and Ever and bring them to the international stage. This year’s Living Walls was perhaps the strongest yet, with nearly two-dozen murals going up all over the city of Atlanta plus nightly events to engage residents of the city beyond simply putting up murals and leaving without ever saying hello. This year’s muralists included Inti, Know Hope, Jaz, Never2501, Freddy Sam, and more.
It was RJ’s third year at the conference and Caroline’s first. For anyone who visits Living Walls, the conference very quickly becomes like home. With dozens of mural festivals around the world, the differentiating factor is often the staff of the event, and Living Walls’ staff are some of the most dedicated and professional volunteers that you will find at any mural festival, getting done what needs to be done while still embracing participants and visitors alike as family.
Another differentiating factor between Living Walls and other festivals is their choice of walls. Living Walls has done a great job in the past of spreading out their murals around the entire city of Atlanta, so that the festival avoids becoming an excuse to do little more than gentrify one neighborhood or another.
This year, Living Walls continued that tradition of picking the best available walls across the entire city, with one notable exception. The organizers gained access to series of walls right next to one another in the Summerhill neighborhood by Turner Field. It’s the neighborhood currently best known for the parking lots that you might wind up in if you go to a Braves game. Soon though, with over half a dozen new murals, Summerhill may be known as one of the brightest, most colorful, and most artistically interesting neighborhoods in Atlanta. As long as it doesn’t become the main focus of the festival, we are excited to see Living Walls experimenting with concentrating their energies in an area that could really use some color and makes a good excuse to get of the car and walk around.
RJ’s favorite mural was Agostino Iacurci’s piece that goes up four-stories on the side of an apartment building. In a city where cars are king, it’s certainly valuable that this piece is visible from at least half a mile away. The curators of Living Walls have always done a great job of placing artists where they will do their best work, and this is no exception. RJ was skeptical about Agostino when he first appeared on the line up, but this mural is one of the best in Atlanta. Agostino did something that is simple and large enough to be seen from a moving car, but still interesting and site-specific. The windows that are already built into the wall were incorporated cleverly into Agostino piece to complement the artist’s illusion of a house in his mural.
Caroline's favorite of this year's Living Walls murals is by Inti. It's not visible from the road, but the placement of Inti's wall is actually pretty forward-thinking, as it's very visible along the Beltline, a park that is currently being developed along miles of disused train tracks. While Inti's piece looks great in pictures, seeing it in-person leaves a better impression, because you see how challenging it must have been to create a coherent image that is both detailed and four stories tall. Not every artist can paint on that scale. Inti's use of color combined with the artist's technical ability makes the mural interesting for observers with no knowledge of art history, but the wall is heavily symbolic which adds a deeper layer of interest. The wall features one of Inti's characters pulling apart a shovel to reveal a flute, which celebrates the creative contribution of the working class. The metaphor is especially poignant given its location next to the Beltline which used to be a site of railway workers and is now being modified into a park for play.
We also want to highlight the murals by Know Hope and Never2501. Both murals are in Summerhill and are great examples of what these artists can do. Know Hope's mural (titled The sound of a waving flag) is another that is ideal to be seen from a moving car, with big and bold images of cartoon birds flying into the ground. And while Never2501 is one of those artists who seems to be at every mural festival these days, this piece in Atlanta is one of his strongest in a while. The bulk of the piece is simple and beautiful, but the smaller additions on the left and right of the piece (a red dot and an illustration of a scissor lift) hint at the growing commercialization of street art and muralism. Both pieces really bring something to the neighborhood.
As Living Walls continues to grow and become a staple in Atlanta, it’s encouraging to see the organization maintain a high standard of consistent quality and commitment to free public art and arts-related festivities for everyone. With this year’s festival finishing up on Saturday night, we present you with the murals of the Living Walls Conference 2013.
All photos by Dustin Chambers
A Recap of the Murals at Living Walls Atlanta