We post images from a mural in Atlanta photographed a number of years ago by Jaime Rojo, as we remember with admiration, gratitude, and respect Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.
“I APPEAL TO ALL OF YOU TO GET INTO THIS GREAT REVOLUTION THAT IS SWEEPING THIS NATION. GET IN AND STAY IN THE STREETS OF EVERY CITY, EVERY VILLAGE AND HAMLET OF THIS NATION UNTIL TRUE FREEDOM COMES, UNTIL THE REVOLUTION OF 1776 IS COMPLETE” – John Lewis, March on Washington, August 28, 1963
How much of you is here with me right now? Are you giving me 100% of you? 80%? 15? When we are texting and “liking” and “sharing” and posting we prefer to think that we are interacting with the world and our selected circles of friends through active and passive participation.
A new mural for Atlanta’s Art On The Beltline Project highlights the nature of the current vogue for digitally experiencing the world and a term loosely defined as “community”.
Artists Karl Addison and Jarus first collaborated on a wall together during Wall\Therapy in Rochester, New York in 2014 and then later on a project called “Glasshouse” in Berlin. For this one, “Avatar” they say their narrative is about our digital personality and identity. To depict the actual and virtual, they alter her physical features the further they are from the screen.
“The composition is a woman lying down using her phone,” says Addison as he describes her face bathed in the glow of the screen. “As the painting drifts back she becomes pixelated with color blocks and more abstract within the negative space.” Enjoy this real painting from the perspective of your digital device.
As the U.S. reflects on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. today we also acknowledge that his work, and our work, is not done.
This past year has brought more people into the streets to demonstrate across America than in many years, and the signs and slogans can in many cases be interchanged for those used by civil rights marchers half a century earlier.
In multiple cities across the country thousands of citizens have demonstrated on streets, roads, avenues, highways, intersections. They have made signs and chanted and marched multiple days and nights against injustice and many more have tweeted, facebooked, tumbled and texted – originally it was related to police brutality specifically but more largely we have seen an overall critique of a system still corroded and undermined by our history and legacy of racism.
From our jails to our boardrooms to our schools and universities to our media outlets to our halls of government, a system of inequality continues, supported by our own ignorance and our failure to learn and heal that legacy of racism. Every day we see a black president thwarted and insulted and disrespected – not for political motivations simply, but so obviously just because of his race. The level of disrespect for the highest office in government has been unprecendented, debasing us all, even though a majority elected and re-elected President Obama.
But just last week the Miami police department was revealed to be using actual photographs of black men for sniper training practice. A blind spot in our own consciousness that is obvious when revealed, but it’s more often a case of a thousand tiny little cuts that keeps a people down, or at least permanently on the defensive. Of course we can do better.
When it comes to media depictions of people and races, it’s these subtleties that might not be quickly evident until someone culls together many examples so you can see a pattern. In a recent and effective hashtag project that spurred a website by the same name #iftheygunnedmedown questions and examines the bias of new outlets that convict or exonerate a person by the selective use of images alone. If it’s a white guy, then it’s his high school graduation day pic. If it’s a black guy, the photo is from the drunken crazy party afterward.
Street Artist and contemporary muralist Gaia picked up the thread of that discussion and created this new mural from photos posted by people on social media for #iftheygunnedmedown. Each of the dual natures presented give cues that are picked up on by a viewer and used to interpret physical and character traits and a variety of assumptions about the person. Gaia points to the project’s founder, CJ Lawrence, as the original inspiration for the project and quotes him saying, “… I set out to indict the media for its role in how we, as Black people, are portrayed after we are killed”.
The newly completed mural is at the Center for Human Rights in Atlanta and it uses images of Instagrammers whose handles are @bbuckson93 , @cruelyear , @qdotjones and @fullblowndork. As you scan across the handpainted reproductions of personal and family images, obseerve your own perceptions about the person in the frame.
The portraits rise above and are demarcated by symbols and metaphors of the ruins of Persepolis. Of the relevance of the ruins to the project Gaia explains, “The centerpiece is the Cylinder of Cyrus, which is considered by some as the first universal charter on human rights.” The cuneiform inscribed clay cylinder from 6th century BC may not have the impact that an Instragram re-painting does to the average visitor, but it does ground the message in the realization that the march toward rights for all has been very long and there has been much progress – and that there is a long way to go yet.
Last week on our BSA Film Friday feature we brought you the story of two murals in Atlanta that were destroyed by the community because certain elements of each offended them. The documentary “A Tale of Two Murals” by Public Broadcasting Atlanta and PBS, directed by Trevor Keller, faithfully followed the story that began in 2012 during the Atlanta Living Walls festival. This week we bring you a new essay on the occasion of a new ordinance proposed by the City of Atlanta to regulate the process of reviewing and approving these murals going forward. A former intern and Communications Director of Living Walls, Alexandra Parrish submitted this essay to BSA to give her opinion and perspective on the events during the last two years and what she believes will be the impact of new pending legislation.
By Alexandra Parrish
In the past five years, Atlanta has shaped up to be a veritable hub of the arts. Within this period, the city has witnessed a cultural renaissance thanks to a myriad of impassioned arts organizations and creative individuals. It should be mentioned that the largess of these initiatives came not from city officials, but rather propelled from the ground-up. Of those that have garnered international acclaim is Living Walls, the non-profit arts organization responsible for the installation of over one hundred murals across city limits.
As it stands today, Living Walls, among several other arts organizations and practicing artists are under attack.
Let’s back track for a minute. Five years ago, Living Walls hosted the first street art conference in Atlanta, inviting over twenty artists from around the globe and their own backyard to complete a series of murals. The impetus behind the event was to garner discussion about public space in Atlanta that seemed overpowered by the freeways that divided neighborhoods, overwhelmed by billboards and generally ignored by the city. Although street art could not solve these problems, it got people talking. Due to the success of the first event, the once deemed “scrappy” organization continued, and murals began to display across the city as the annual conference came and went.
Along the way, Living Walls made a few mistakes. First, the organization was into the third year of operation when the city noted that despite approval by private property owners, every mural that Living Walls was responsible for were done so illegally. The city had in place an ordinance that required the approval of public art from three different city agencies in order to determine if the work was signage. By that time, Living Walls began to seek non-profit status, and in an effort to follow to the law at hand, they obliged to the arduous process of approval. From then on, Living Walls staff made the effort so that every mural was subjected to this procedure.
Second, one mural completed during the 2012 edition sparked controversy. Hyuro, a renowned Spanish artist, completed a mural of a woman in a series of undress in the neighborhood of Chosewood Park. The nudity offended some people; some even deemed the work ‘pornographic.’ When the city was notified, the Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA) remarked that the work that they approved had, in fact, not made it on the wall: the original sketch by the artist depicted a number of folding chairs. The controversial work was ultimately buffed since it did not appropriately follow procedure.
The third mistake wasn’t exactly a mistake on paper. In 2012, on the tail end of the Hyuro controversy, the French artist Roti painted another expansive mural in the corridor of the Pittsburgh neighborhood. Living Walls, and the artist, followed procedure: the sketch (which made it on the wall, this time) was presented to three departments and approved. About a month after the mural was finished, controversy stirred again. Unfortunately, this is where the story begins.
I believe it’s important that I offer full disclosure: I am the former Communications Director of Living Walls. I started working with the organization back in 2011 as an intern, and continued until I eventually moved from Atlanta in 2013. I am also the partner of Roti, whom I met during his stay in Atlanta two years ago. I’ve witnessed these events unravel before me, and I’ve felt powerless as to how to react. Today I feel the inclination to respond to these events, because with many miles between me and Atlanta and everything that is about to happen, I finally understand.
We were in New York City when Roti and I heard the news: Camille Love, Executive Director of the OCA notified Monica Campana, Living Wall’s own Executive Director, that Roti’s mural had to be buffed. No explanation was given initially, but it would only take a matter of hours until we learned that several community members had objected to what they perceived as the murals “demonic” imagery. While Campana rightly justified that the city had approved the content and refused to buff the wall, about six men (including a former congressmen who I still can’t believe held office after watching this video) decided to do it for her – illegally. Despite their attempts, the water-based paint that haphazardly covered Roti’s mural stood no chance. In a matter of hours, over 100 people gathered with soap, water and sponges. Along with the help Department of Transportation, they managed to salvage the mural.
Roti and I were completely floored by the chain of events. I think for any street artist who travels the world painting murals understands that once they’ve done their work, it no longer belongs to them. It belongs to the people who have to see it every day, the communities of which it is in. I urged Roti to issue a statement about his work, but he refused to make any concessions. It didn’t belong to him anymore. We were just witnesses to the theater underway.
When I returned to Atlanta, the saga of Roti’s mural continued. Two council members from the area hosted a press conference to “discuss a resolution” with concerned parties. Conspicuously, Living Walls was not invited, nor anyone else who was in favor of the work. Word travelled fast and as soon as the cameras turned on, a crowd had gathered just opposite Roti’s mural. Those in front of the camera stood in their opposition to the mural, while those standing behind the camera maintained their support. The pundits spoke their grievances and the cameras were turned off. The hostility simmered to a boil once many from the community who believed in the work felt slighted, and seeking the opportunity to discuss their differences, were immediately shot down. I saw fingers pointed, voices raised and accusations slung. It was the most unfortunate event I have ever witnessed, and I will never forget.
Roti’s mural was buffed grey soon thereafter. Those council members who so vigorously opposed Roti’s mural assembled a committee that was determined to draft legislation so that an event like this would never happen again. In the spring of this year, they finally presented the legislation. Once the arts community caught wind of the initial proposal, valid issues were raised. Of the most paramount concern was that this ordinance would give city officials the right to make aesthetic decisions about private property, and anyone with knowledge of American civics can understand that this is a clear encroachment on first amendment rights. The ordinance, which was quickly ostracized by many Atlantans (not only in the arts), was shelved up until last week when the city council decided to take it up again to vote for approval.
This brings us where we are today, and where my long-winded explanation of this series of events will come to a close, but only after I offer my consideration of this entire situation. I understand the sentiment shared by those community members who did not approve of Hyuro’s and Roti’s murals is exacted because of just that: they were not notified, so therefore they weren’t given the chance to say yay or nay until the work was already up. I could get into specifics and blame the council members for this point (they represent these communities, and had approved of the work), but I’ll leave that aside. The point is, these people felt disenfranchised by the artwork. But can a hefty bureaucratic measure resolve this issue? Simple answer: no.
That brings me to another concern. The legislation requires a lot of work on behalf of the artist and private property owner. I’ll give the city some credit where it’s due that they are trying to “streamline” the process by funneling all the paperwork through one office, but the paperwork in itself still requires too much red tape over the freedom of expression. I would even dare to suggest that it would deter individuals (or smaller organizations than Living Walls) from making so much as an attempt to follow this draconian procedure. In other words: this legislation stifles creativity.
This civic creativity is what has put Atlanta on the map in terms of the arts and culture. It came from the porches, bars and backyards. These informal networks, which are made on a daily basis, built the cultural capital of Atlanta. And it is precisely because they had the freedom to do so. That is why I will go so far to claim that this legislation is an attack on the arts in Atlanta, because if it is passed, it will eventually alter this practice. If murals are accountable to time-consuming subjugation, so is the imagination of these artists.
I may no longer live in Atlanta, but the city is still part of my identity. I’ve traveled to different places around the world and have had the pleasure of meeting many people who knew of Atlanta, not only because it hosted the Olympics back in 1996, but also because of it’s flourishing arts scene. If the city takes this step to restrict artwork, they will undoubtedly place a constraint on the creative industry that has followed. Those “scrappy” organizations like Living Walls may fall short to the city’s demands, and others may never even surface.
*After a public meeting this week with the committee spearheading the legislation, councilmember Joyce Shepard has decided to take more time to review the proposed ordinance. Additionally, she suggested that perhaps arts and legal experts could offer further consultation. While I would like to dictate some optimism on behalf of this news, I find it politics at best. When initial proposal faced criticism from arts organizations and artists alike, city council attempted to thwart constructive input by rescheduling a public meeting nearly five times. This news echoes the habitual avoidance demonstrated by city council since the onset of the proposed legislature.
However, let us hope that the ostracism of the arts community by the city council in drafting this public art ordinance is subject for reversal. Perhaps, this time around city council will review these points made above, which sound loudly among all artists in Atlanta.
The traveling Street Artist and historian / student / observer / critic of urban planning, anthropology, people’s movements who goes by the moniker GAIA shares with us today some of the back stories for recent murals he has authored.
When he posts on his Facebook page that he is looking for recommendations for reading about a certain city or culture where he will be soon visiting, you can have a degree of certainty that GAIA will soon be depicting what he learns with portraiture and dioramic imagery that illustrates what he has found. This fascination for self-education and public education through public artworks has roots in mural history that has persisted for decades in cities and neighborhoods around the world.
Typically public murals are stories told from a formal city or town historical perspective or come about from the distilled sentiment of a community to address or commemorate pivotal people and events that formed and molded the direction or DNA of a population. With Gaia’s personal study, criterion for selection, and style of storytelling one wonders if there is not a GAIA school of mural making that has been evolving over these last five years – one that already appears to have adherents and enthusiastic co-creators – and which reflects his focus on social movements, political machinations, industry, economic drivers, and anthropology.
Here are recent examples of work by Gaia and collaborators in three American cities (although his work is not limited to just this continent) along with some explanatory text from the artist to help contextualize the stories and players evoked within them.
“City of Altruism” – Greenville, North Carolina
Part of #yearofaltruism, the mural features the warped images of four mills that have been repurposed or are slated for renovation and that flow through the Reedy River falls. Previously sites of industry and working class employment that are now used for shopping, upper-income lofts, and entertainment culture, these mills are part of a local heritage that GAIA wanted to preserve.
“Global competition restructures the lives of working class and white collar communities as the South meets the 21st century,” he explains as he describes the new piece. “The calla lilies are a nod to the Bible-minded nature of Greenville; the flowers represent purity yet are also poisonous. These are paired with the tumbling red brick of change and destruction. A single story brick duplex emerges out of the top left of the composition with the phrases “Webster Street” and “Phillis Wheatley” as a memorial to the African American neighborhood that has been erased from this area.”
Gaia would like to thank The Year Of Altruism Foundation for including him in their programming and for inviting him to Greenville, with special thanks to Steve Cohen and Don Kliburg for orchestrating the project.
GAIA in collaboration with artists Nanook, Ozmo and Matt Cogdil created these three warped Bierstadt paintings that fade into images of Mayor Hartsfield and of H. Rap Brown in the bottom corner. The project was completed for Living Walls, the City Speaks in the city’s West End, which GAIA describes as “an industrial neighborhood that is used as a buffer with the construction of Interstate 20 to prevent Mechanicsville and Pittsburgh from encroaching further north into the downtown and the Mosley Park areas.”
The primary focus of the elongated piece is a memorial to #VincentChin who, observes GAIA, “passed in 1982 in an altercation that possessed attributes of a hate crime and whose perpetrators who were given lenient sentencing in a plea bargain.”
With that image as the central one, GAIA combines images of leaders whose careers directly or indirectly could be tied to that event, he says. He describes the mural like this: “Painting post war economic miracles as a portrait of global competition that led to layoffs in Detroit and fueled the frustration and xenophobia behind Vincent Chin’s murder”.
Sun Yun-suan (Chinese: 孫運璿; pinyin: Sūn Yùnxuán; November 11, 1913 – February 15, 2006) was a Chinese engineer and politician. As minister of economic affairs from 1969 to 1978 and Premier of the Republic of China from 1978 to 1984, he was credited for overseeing the transformation of Taiwan from being a mainly agricultural economy to an export powerhouse.
Hayato Ikeda (池田 勇人 Ikeda Hayato?, 3 December 1899 – 13 August 1965) was a Japanese politician and the 58th, 59th and 60th Prime Minister of Japan from 19 July 1960 to 9 November 1964. Takafusa Nakamura, a leading economic historian, described Ikeda as “the single most important figure in Japan’s rapid growth. He should long be remembered as the man who pulled together a national consensus for economic growth.”
No doubt it is the grey days of late winter that is making us think about this as we brace for the next snowstorm, but today we’re considering the impact that Street Art color has on architecture that never asked for it.
We’re not the first to think of hues, shades, tones, and palettes when it comes to the man made environment of course, but it does strike us that most of the buildings that are hit up by street art and murals today were designed by architects who never imagined art on their facade.
Modern architecture for some reason is still primarily grey, washed out greens, beige, eggshell, snore.
“Color is something that architects are usually afraid of,” said internationally known and awarded architect Benedetta Tagliabue in an interview last May about the topic of color. A generalization probably, and you can always find exceptions of colorfully painted neighborhoods globally like the Haight in San Francisco, La Boca in Buenos Aires, Portafino in Italy, Guanajuato in Mexico, Bo-Kaap in Capetown, the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and the Blue City of India, but many of those examples speak to color blocking and pattern.
We’ve been looking at the power of Street Art to reface, re-contextualize, re-energize, and re-imagine a building and its place in the neighborhood. Some times it is successful, other times it may produce a light vertigo. The impact of work on buildings by today’s Street Artists and muralists depends not only on content and composition but largely on the palette they have chosen. It sounds trite, and self-evident perhaps, but much of Street Art is about color, and primarily on the warm scale first described by Faber Birren with his OSHA colors and color circle in the 1930s .
It’s common now to think of 21st century Street Art as the graffiti-influenced practice that primarily activates the detritus of the abandoned industrial sector blighting western cities in the wake of trade agreements that sent all the jobs to lands without protections and regulations. While that is definitely the sort of neglected factory architecture preferred for “activation” by many graffiti artists and Street Artists alike, we also see more curious couplings of color with the delicately ornate, the regal, or even modernist structures today thanks to artists being invited, rather than chased.
The results? Abstractionist, cubist, geometric, letter-based, illustrative, figurative, text-based, outsider, folk, dadaist, pop. One common denominator: color.
“The environment and its colors are perceived, and the brain processes and judges what it perceives on an objective and subjective basis. Psychological influence, communication, information, and effects on the psyche are aspects of our perceptual judgment processes,” writes Frank H. Mahnke in his recent piece for Archinect. The author of Color, Environment, & Human Response has made it his mission to explore psychological, biological effects of color and light and to help creators of the man-made environment make good choices.
Whether all of these choices are good, we leave up to you. But it is worth considering that Street Artists have been part of the conversation on the street for decades now, making powerful suggestions to architects and city planners , so maybe it’s worth taking another look at what they’ve been up to lately.
Here it is! Our 2013 wrap up featuring favorite images of the year by Brooklyn Street Art’s Jaime Rojo.
Before our video roundup below here is the Street Art photographer’s favorite of the year, snapped one second before he was singled out of a New York crowd, handcuffed, and stuffed into a police car – sort of like the Banksy balloons he was capturing.
“Among all the thousands of photos I took this year there’s one that encapsulates the importance of Street Art in the art world and some of the hysteria that can build up around it,” he says of his final shot on the final day of the one month Better Out Than In artist ‘residency’ in NYC this October. It was a cool day to be a Street Art photographer – but sadly Rojo was camera-less in a case of mistaken identity, if only for a short time.
Released two hours later after the actual car-jumping trespasser was charged, Rojo was happy to hear the Chief Lieutenant tell his officer “you’ve got the wrong man”, to get his shoelaces back, and to discover this photo was still on his camera. He also gets to tell people at parties that he spent some time in the holding cell with the two guys whom New York watched tugging down the B-A-N-K-S-Y.
When it came to choosing the 112 images for the video that capture the spirit of the Street Art scene in ’13, we were as usual sort of overwhelmed to comb through about ten thousand images and to debate just how many ‘legal’ versus ‘illegal’ pieces made it into the mix. Should we include only images that went up under the cover of the night, unsanctioned, uncensored, uncompromised, unsolicited and uncommissioned? Isn’t that what Street Art is?
Right now there are a growing number of legal pieces going up in cities thanks to a growing fascination with Street Art and artists and it is causing us to reevaluate what the nature of the Street Art scene is, and what it may augur for the future. You can even say that from a content and speech perspective, a sizeable amount of the new stuff is playing it safe – which detracts from the badass rebel quality once associated with the practice.
These works are typically called by their more traditional description – murals. With all the Street Art / graffiti festivals now happening worldwide and the growing willingness of landlords to actually invite ‘vandals’ to paint their buildings to add cache to a neighborhood and not surprisingly benefit from the concomitant increase in real estate values, many fans and watchers have been feeling conflicted in 2013 about the mainstreaming that appears to be taking place before our eyes. But for the purposes of this roundup we decided to skip the debate and let everybody mix and mingle freely.
This is just a year-end rollicking Street Art round-up; A document of the moment that we hope you like.
Ultimately for BSA it has always been about what is fresh and what is celebrating the creative spirit – and what is coming next. “We felt that the pieces in this collection expressed the current vitality of the movement – at least on the streets of New York City,” says photographer and BSA co-founder Rojo. It’s a fusillade of the moment, complete with examples of large murals, small wheat pastes, intricate stencils, simple words made with recycled materials or sprayed on to walls, clay installations, three dimensional sculptures, hand painted canvases, crocheted installations, yarn installations etc… they somehow captured our imaginations, inspired us, made us smile, made us think, gave us impetus to continue doing what we are doing and above all made us love this city even more and the art and the artists who produce it.
A Dying Breed, Aakash Nihalini, Agostino Iacursi, Amanda Marie, Apolo Torres, Axel Void, Bagman, Bamn, Pixote, Banksy, B.D. White, Betsy, Bishop203, NDA, Blek le Rat, br1, Case Maclaim, Cash For Your Warhol, Cholo, Chris RWK, Chris Stain, Billy Mode, Christian Nagel, Cost, ENX, Invader, Crush, Dal East, Damien Mitchell, Dase, Dasic, Keely, Deeker, Don’t Fret, The Droid, ECB, el Seed, El Sol 25, Elbow Toe, Faile, Faith 47, Five Pointz, Free Humanity, Greg LaMarche, Hot Tea, How & Nosm, Icy & Sot, Inti, Jilly Ballistic, John Hall, JR, Jose Parla, Judith Supine, Kremen, Kuma, LMNOPI, London Kaye, Love Me, Martha Cooper, Matt Siren, Elle, Mika, Miss Me, Missy, MOMO, Mr. Toll, Nychos, Okuda, Alice Mizrachi, OLEK, Owen Dippie, Paolo Cirio, Paul Insect, Phetus, Phlegm, Revok, Pose, QRST, Rambo, Ramiro Davaro, Reka, Rene Gagnon, ROA, RONES, Rubin, bunny M, Square, Stikki Peaches, Stikman, Swoon, Tristan Eaton, The Lisa Project 2013, UFO 907, Willow, Swill, Zed1, and Zimer.
“I was thinking about the whole idea of genius and creative people, and the notion that if you create some magical art, somehow that exempts you from having to pay attention to the small things.” ~ Bell Hooks
On the street, the most magical art is sometimes the most miniature.
It can be easy to overlook the small and smartly cut stencil or meticulously markered sticker that pops up on a dumpster or illuminates a light pole when you are being overpowered by the panoramic painting that swallows the expanse of an entire wall. Getting up big is big right now. Making a splash with an ocean of pigments appears to be the norm rather than the exception in art in the streets at the moment – thanks to very organized festivals and welcoming real estate folks and an ever more appreciative appetite by the public.
But that doesn’t mean the petite pieces have perished. At times they appear to proliferate.
Small Street Art pieces seem to pop up on the streets overnight like mushrooms in the urban forest – aided by the darkness and fertile conditions – small and surprisingly shaped upcroppings, some tasty and complex and others that may poison your pleasant disposition. We still remember the thrill of walking the desolate streets of Williamsburg, Bushwick, Red Hook and Greenpoint in the late 90s/early 2000s and discovering the “hidden” Street Art that suddenly surfaced without announcement. Amidst a sorry series of sadly deflated industrial sites you would see a hand drawn sticker, a grease-penciled poem, a knitted pole cozy, a pasted collage of textures, photos, and text. Its less frequent right now, but the practice has continued partly because it is quick to install and the effect can have impact and a certain intimacy.
Also, not everyone has a burning need for the big stage. As we all know, the biggest talker in the room is not necessarily the most humorous, insightful, genius or certainly, the most magical.
“We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now.”
The streets have always been a powerful venue for everyday men and women to advocate their political views and to be visible, to be heard, to champion and to demand. Today we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and all that it achieved and how we all changed as a result of it, even as we recognize how far yet we have to go for everyone to be treated fairly and the great cost the struggle exacted from many. This march had an impact on the American people like none other and even now the struggle for freedom, equality, and economic justice continues here and around the world as the words of Martin Luther King Jr. remain an inspiration to many.
The Loss Prevention. John Lewis. March On Washington. August 28, 1963. (photo @ Jaime Rojo)
Martin Luther King “I Have A Dream” Speech
“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check — a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied, as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only”. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
The artists are having breakfast at the Goat Farm, and Georgie is yelping in his cage. The year old beagle wants to get out and jump on everybody’s lap and help clean off their plates with his pink tongue and but for right now Emily is looking at the weather channel on her laptop and transfixed by the forecasted rain that could hit tonight’s block party in Edgewood and Know Hope is debating a second helping of scrambled eggs. Somebody plows through the screened door with fresh copies of the local arts newspaper that features JR on the front and the Living Walls 2013 official map inside, and assorted bearded bros are pawing through their iPhones to answer emails and catch Instagram shots of the walls that have gone up so far here in Atlanta.
The Goat Farm is the central meeting spot for the 20 or so artists in this, the 4th Living Walls festival, and you are free to wander the grounds of this 19th-century complex of industrial buildings that made cotton machinery and munitions during two of its previous iterations. Now it has a few hundred artists studios, performance spaces, and cool little places to hang out and talk about the new walls by artists like 2501, Inti, Agostino Iacurci, and many others in neighborhoods like Summer Hill and Edgewood. Naturally, you can also hang out with the goats in their penned off area or be entertained by the personality-plus chickens that walk freely around the sprawling grounds.
Last night was the kick off Movie Night party at Callenwolde Arts Center and BSA gave the room of 200+ guests an entertaining tour of about 15 Street Art videos from around the world called “Street Art in Motion”. After giving a bit of history about BSA and our involvement with the arts in general and Street Art in particular we introduced three categories that we think represent Street Art in video right now – “Explorers, Experimenters, and Anti-heroes”. Drawn from the archives of BSA Film Friday we looked at works from a group in Tel Aviv, Vhils in Brazil, Vexta in India, Conor Harrington in Norway, Creepy in the Australian outback, MOMO in Jamaica, Various and Gould in Instanbul, and Jay Shells in Brooklyn, among others.
It was great to invite special guest RJ Rushmore from Vandalog introduce a video from Evan Roth and we ended the hour and half presentation with the most popular video of the year so far, “Infinite” featuring Sofles slaying wall after wall in a mammoth abandoned building – a perfect combining of stop action editing and low-tech special effects that pulls together all three of our themes of exploration, experimentation, and a bit of the badass anti-hero stance. By the time the drums and bass stopped pounding on the speakers we were ready for a visit to the bar and some excited talking about music, spraycans, and the city’s longest continually operating strip club, the Clermont Lounge.
Living Walls 2013 typifies the rolling feast of Street Artists, neighborhood and volunteering that can put together like-minded creators and fans in a harmonious collaborative way. With so many energetic and organized volunteers, its just a good vibe, and the work on the walls reflect a quality and a developed sense of concept that sets up Living Walls Atlanta as a standard of sorts that you may want to study. Even when your car battery goes dead and you need to find a new one to continue touring, its great to see that there is a genuine sense of that thing called southern hospitality here in the city, and we have already met some great neighbors on the street who are happy with the artists and the walls, some even honking and giving the “thumbs up” from their passing cars.
Here’s our first group from Living Walls Atlanta this year. Hope you dig.
Let’s go back in time with a night full of dancing and magic and relive one of our most unforgettable teenage moments with Living Walls. Inspired by the cult classic Back to the Future, Living Walls presents our second annual Prom fundraiser, Enchantment Under The Sea.
Break out your saddle shoes and poodle skirts and party down with Prom hits by Del Venicci and DJ set by Boys Night, a Prom Queen Face-off with Brigitte Bidet, and LeahAndMark will truly make this a night to remember with their photobooth!
If you need help forgetting the memories, Cathead Vodka and Terrapin will be there to help lessen the sting of Bobby standing you up and Mary Sue rejecting your letterman’s jacket.
Tickets are available through Scoutmob, and each includes one free drink!
BSA is not just Brooklyn, you know. Last year we brought you new Street Art from Atlanta, Arizona, Baltimore, Berlin, Boston, Bronx, Brooklyn, Brisbane, Bristol, Costa Rica, Chicago, China, Dominican Republic, The Gambia, Guatemala, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Istanbul, Italy, Jamaica, Johannesburg, Kenya, Los Angeles, London, Mexico City, Miami, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Norway, NYC, Palestine, Panama, Paris, Perth, Queens, Reno, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, and Trinidad. And that is a partial, incomplete list. Remember that the next time someone says we cover just Brooklyn and New York. Not quite.
Also while we were surveying what we did in 2012, we were curious to see which were the top stories we covered for the Huffington Post, measured by hits, social sharing, and emails sent to us. Here are the top stories you liked the most of the 44 we cross-published with Huffington Post Arts & Culture in 2012. (A complete list at the end of the posting)