Decatur Joins "Living Walls" Conversation

Vibrant murals on city buildings bring color to urban landscape and food for thought.

If you’ve been anywhere in the city of Decatur within the last couple of weeks, you’ve probably seen at least one gigantic mural painted on the side of a building.

There are seven of them placed throughout the city as part of “Living Walls, The City Speaks,” a conference of international artists engaged in creating public art in the Atlanta area.

The murals were painted over a three-day period, Aug. 12-14, and most will have a life-span of at least a year, unless a new tenant objects to the artwork. The murals typically last five years before
they need repainting.

“I love the way the walls are turned into something lively,” said Catherine Lee, Development Services Coordinator for Decatur. “It definitely starts a conversation.”

And that, according to Monica Campana and Blacki Li Rudi Migliozzi, who founded the event in 2009, is just what is supposed to happen.

"Living Walls hopes to engage the community in conversation about their public space via art,” Campana wrote in an email to Patch. “We invite artists from all over the world who come here and get inspired by the city and create art that will be available for everyone to see
in the streets. Public art is a very powerful thing! It reaches so many people and raises so many questions, it’s a beautiful thing!”

 “I had heard about the event and had seen a lot of the murals that were done last year in the city of Atlanta — some along DeKalb Avenue,” Lee said.

After scoping out some possible locations with property owners receptive to hosting a wall, she approached Living Walls about adding Decatur to their roster.

Acquiring permission to create a mural was a matter of getting the OK from the building owners and a work permit to do the painting. After that, it was an organic process with most of it happening on the spot, Lee said.  

Vision Property Inc. owner Bruce Cohen, who has three murals on two of his properties, enjoyed working with the artists.

“He had complete respect for what they do and trusted the artists to make the right decisions,” said Amanda Owens Brown, property manager for Vision Properties Inc.  

One of her favorite murals painted by PLF, one of the only local artists, is a vibrant blue, yellow and red creation on the Big H Building in Oakhurst.

“It looks very cool — like architecture meets fluid organic shapes,” she said. “He told me a lot of his art is influenced by the music of Charlie Parker because that’s what he listens to when he paints.”

As the murals were completed, folks started noticing and Facebook posts started appearing. In particular, opinions for and against one of the paintings emerged on Living Wall’s website and Decatur Metro
along with questions and confusion about the legality of the paintings.

“There was a misunderstanding that the Historic Preservation Commission could have the E. Howard mural removed because
it was in a local historic district, which upset some of the artists,” Lee said.

“However that was never the case,” she said.  “Paint can’t be dictated by the Historic Preservation Commission.”

Decisions about paint are solely in the hands of the property owners.

“There were strong opinions on both sides about the murals which is understandable since public art never pleases everyone,”
Lee said. “We are happy with the way the murals have started a conversation about art and helped add a splash of color to Decatur’s downtown.”

For a comprehensive list of artists and map to all the murals in the city of Decatur, visit this link.

Keith Drew September 02, 2011 at 03:38 PM
The waterpipes "mural" on the building in Oakhurst is nothing more than graffiti, totally out of character for the community and in disrespect of the worship community housed within the building.
maxine rock September 03, 2011 at 12:13 AM
The murals are lovely and lively, and create art where blank spots marred the urban landscape. Let's have more, in more parts of Atlanta. They add so much to our lives!
fisbn September 06, 2011 at 05:23 PM
Oakhurst is /should be a vibrant community.please tell me how art(if you like it or not)shows disrespect for anything.It's not Graffiti,it's a well thought out painting and is much better than looking at blank,grey walls.Would you feel better if it was a coca-cola ad?


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