Artists Soaking in Communities, Living Walls.

When Monica left Peru in 1998 to live in Florida, it was really tough and she struggled, as a teenagers and immigrant, to find her own identity and accept and understand her new home. 

It would not be until she was 24 when she moved to Georgia on a full scholarship to attend SCAD where started to feel like she belonged.

Monica dropped out of SCAD and met Blacki Migliozzi, who will prove instrumental in creating what is now one of the most forward thinking art focused nonprofit organizations in the state: Living Walls.

Blacki and Monica took their vision and art to the streets and through that process, Monica’s life started to make sense for herself.  She saw with fresh eyes the spaces in city, the people, their yearnings, their lives.  10493007_10152320445791229_5862440513202256994_o
Extremely committed to her work, feeling renewed, excited and happy to be in Atlanta, she became involved with the arts community, started curating shows, learned about the art scene in Europe and began to truly understand public art at a profound level, aknowledging the impact and influence in shaping people’s feelings as well as city planning.

Blacki and Monica, proposed to Eyedrum a project to get together, in one room, city planners and grafitti artists to look at the same public spaces and have a discussion about what they saw and potential for collaborations.10622870_10152342355011229_3615326678603881466_n

This project, became Living Walls, The City Speaks.  It was 2009.  

Monica quit her full-time job to dedicate herself to Living Walls. During a time of financial hardships and doubt, a donor wrote her a $10,000 check and encouraged her to continue.  With that check, Monica started planning the second conference.

It is 2012 and the project applied for 501(c)(3) and had a staff of 21 volunteers, her greatest strength, was the incredible press coverage (nationally) and the caliber of artists volunteering and working together.

This year’s conference takes place along Buford Highway in partnership with WeLoveBuHi.  The conference, part workshop, part public gallery, part community dialogue, sprawls across the cities of Brookhaven, Doraville and Chamblee. All the artists are people of color with specific agendas:  One of them is focused on bringing a female gaze/narrative to the streets (mostly reflecting a male perspective), a second artist builds her work based on community dialogue around the impact of immigration and its journey, the anxiety of loss and politics, interpreting words visually, among other relevant topics.

Living Walls intends to grow into a more flexible and intentional organization with year around programming.

“Right now, we are embracing the responsibility that comes with knowing how our work impacts people, people that live, work and pass by the public spaces we touch.  Communities and artists are very complex, there is no formula for this, but we are working to do and be the best we can.  We are creating values for the work with do, values of representation, respect, inclusion and building in time for our artists to truly soak in the communities and spaces they work in” said Monica Campana, Co-founder of Living Walls when we discussed this story.

What opportunities you see doing this work along Buford Highway?

Experiencing Chicago seeing neighborhoods that are Chicano, you can feel it, eat it, learn from the walls, etc.  I love the way they have managed to use public arts in a way of resistance, like a shield.  Even though some of the neighborhoods are changing, people are very proud of their history and they are helping drive that change.  I am hoping to bring something similar to BuHi.

This project is very personal not only because of my story, but because it is highlighting a corridor that is in jeopardy, with so many things happening.  This work is  aligned with different movements about representation of diverse communities including immigrant communities and BLM.

This year’s conference is about handing the microphone to the people of Buford Highway. Often times other people are talking for them, it is time they speak for themselves.

It is about the stories and the journey to protect the area, almost as a historical marker.
For example: How do we tell the world that this business has been here for years and what is means to the local community?  How do we tell the world that this restaurant is so much more than affordable food?
It is about finding respect.


Who are some of the big players and partners for this work?
Athena’s Warehouse
Cross Keys Foundation/High School Alumni
Latin American Association
The Wish  Foundation
Residents of Buford Highway
In-kind donors
Sam Flax
Porter Paints
Westin Hotel
Out of state funders and the support of city officials
*** Latino Community Fund (LCF Georgia) is part of the Living Walls Advisory Committee and is working to make valuable and relevant connections between artists, Living Walls and key stakeholders in the area such as business owners, residents and workers.
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