Painting Buford Highway

Living Walls is an Atlanta based non-profit organization responsible for creating over 100 pieces of public art throughout the city. For their 2017 conference, Living Walls joined forces with fellow non-profit We Love BuHi to create nine murals on the Buford Highway Corridor that represent the immigrants who live and work there. The art aims to create inviting spaces for pedestrians in the “multicultural heart of Atlanta,” the six mile stretch home to at least 1,000 immigrant owned businesses and dozens of languages and cultural groups.#lwbuhi2017

“They can chain my hands and my feet, but not my heart and my mind”:

Northeast Plaza

Mural of Mexican Trans woman Estrella Sanchez by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh..

Photo by: Hope Davis

Prior to the 2017 conference ten artists of color spent a month with the community to find inspiration for their murals in which each artist was paired with a different community group or organization from the Buford Highway area. “My favorite part was seeing how the artists interacted with the community,” said Living Walls artist Yehimi Cambrón, “I think they were really mindful of people’s identities and respectful of their resiliency.” Cambrón got involved with the project through another artist’s community engagement with Cross Keys High School alum. She mentioned that she was an artist and now teaches art at Cross Keys, and Living Walls Executive Director Monica Campana wanted to include her in the conference as a muralist. Cambrón’s mural graces the side of Havana Sandwich Shop, depicting monarch butterflies’ migratory patterns across North America, and her symbol the Education is Liberation Monarch .

Education is Liberation Monarch:

Havana Sandwich Shop

Yehimi Cambron created the Education is Liberation Monarch as a symbol of undocumented teachers who are able to work in the U.S. through DACA like herself, but feels it has become more inclusive of the immigrant community as a whole, with the book pages representing the knowledge immigrants bring when they migrate.

Photo by: Hope Davis

Artist Dianna Settles worked with the Cross Keys High School chapter of Athena’s Warehouse, a non-profit dedicated to empowering undeserved girls in Atlanta. Settles connected with the girls over their experiences as women of color, first generation American citizens, and helped them create a zine. Over three sessions they discussed these ideas as well as explored concepts of oppression and violence, and how they are reinforced by lack of representation and visibility. Settles’ mural in Northeast Plaza depicts women that represent the girls of Athena’s Warehouse, a familial alter representing responsibility to family and respect for other migrants’ struggles, and plants throughout the piece that represent their shared experiences. “ Kudzu represents resilience (in a very Georgia way),” said Settles.

Athena’s Zine:

During her time at Athena’s Warehouse Settles brought printing materials and helped 15-20 girls in the program make their own zine.

Photo by: Hope Davis

Resiliency proved itself a theme of the project. “Similar themes came up across all murals, like the concepts of home and resiliency,” said Cambrón. Resiliency came up in conversation with both Cambrón and Settles, and appears in murals depicting experiences of migrant mothers and a migrant trans woman.


Northeast Plaza

Dianna Settles used plants to represent experiences as a woman of color and first generation U.S. citizen. “tansy represents war and healing, feminine energy, water, and Athena. Daffodils represent memory. Kudzu represents resilience .... Hyssop represents sacrifice,” said Settles.

Photo by: Hope Davis

BuHi Walk

We Love BuHi partnered with Living Walls for their BuHi Walk project which sets out to create accessible walkways on Buford Highway, Atlanta’s most dangerous street for pedestrians, without generating fear or suspicion from local business owners. The murals intend to increase foot traffic while avoiding gentrification by representing Buford Highway’s diverse communities. Cambrón told me about removal of some affordable housing in the area and weariness of gentrification, saying, “The beautiful thing about Buford Highway-- that is the people-- is changing. The conference could not have come at a better time than now to show the community some love. And what better way to do that than through art.”

Here to Stay:

“The ancestral altar represents our desires and responsibilities to prove to our families that their sacrifices were worth it,” said Settles, “ The altar also represents the wants to hold up other migrant folks and respect their similar struggles to come to the U.S.”

Photo by: Hope Davis

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