Roti wall in Atlanta illegally buffed and then repaired

The mural before the buff

Update: Creative Loafing has done a more extensive article on what’s gone on and is going on with the mural as more facts have become more clear. This one is probably the article to read.

Last week, there was a petition started to save Roti‘s beautiful mural for Living Walls Atlanta. The petition got over 1500 signatures from around the world, but signatures don’t mean much against a paintbrush. Last week, a handful of upset Atlanta residents went to the wall and illegally buffed it (very poorly) in broad daylight. Later that day, volunteers and employees of the Georgia Department of Transportation (who own the wall) came to help remove the paint. Creative Loafing has the full stories.

Two things that I see as problematic interesting here:

  1. The mural was painted legally and buffed illegally. I think that sort of speaks for itself.
  2. The mural was buffed by some percentage of the local residents, and while other local residents support the mural, at least some of the signatures on the petition to save the mural are from people who don’t live nearby or even in the City of Atlanta. What right do we or Living Walls or GDOT have to say “We’re putting this mural here and you’d better like it.”? I think just going ahead and doing it is generally a much better way of putting up murals than months of community meetings. Once the mural is up though and if the community hates it, what should be done? I think it’s ridiculous to have a blank beige or grey wall in that spot rather than Roti’s beautiful figures, but I have never in my life had to drive by that wall on my way to work. Maybe that’s what people in the area want. That said, just because a few residents decided that they disliked the mural enough to go and paint over it does not mean that all the nearby residents or the residents of Atlanta hated the mural. And I haven’t heard any real reason why just going out and vandalising the mural was the step that had to be taken rather than holding some community forums to see what the general consensus was. I’m not saying that this mural should have been buffed (I signed the petition to save it) or that the angry activists who buffed the wall went about things the right way, but I think it’s worth thinking about, particularly, in this era of new muralism coming out of street art, how we can best balance the interests of the arts community and the local community. Thoughts?

Photo by Dustin Chambers

  • it killed me (and I know it killed monica) when this happened. this is a few bad apples trying to spoil the bunch. but, unfortunately, the squeeky wheels get the grease. This and the sawtell mural are creating a worrying precedent that I hope does not continue. Living walls does a good job of engaging the community, but cannot feasibly go door to door and get every neighbor’s approval. What can they do that would not create this problem in the future without watering down the art and the mission?

  • ran into an article recently by patricia c. phillips that makes a case for the validity of temporary public art:

    ā€œPublic art does not have to last forever, it does not have to cast its message to some unmistakable but platitudinous theme that absolutely everyone will get; it does not have to mark or make a common ground. As the texture and context of public life changes over the years, public art must reach for new articulations and new expectations. It must rely on its flexibility, its adaptability to be both responsive and timely, to be both specific and temporary. Ephemeral public art provides a continuity for analysis of the conditions and changing configurations of public life, without mandating the stasis required to express eternal values to a broad audience with different backgrounds and often different verbal and visual imaginations…. The temporary in public art is not about an absence of commitment or involvement, but about an intensification and enrichment of the conception of public. The public is diverse, variable, volatile, controversial; and it has its origins in the private lives of all citizens…. It should be these rich ambiguities that provide the subject matter for public art; the temporary provides the flexible, adjustable, and critical vehicle to explore the relationship of lasting values and current events….ā€