From Streetscapes To Gallery Walls
Living Walls founder Monica Campana takes the helm of a new Little Five Points gallery
Monica Campana’s breakthrough moment as an artist didn’t come when she had a formal gallery opening or made a big sale. Instead, it came 10 years ago when, as an Atlanta newcomer, she was part of a street art project.
“One day, I went out with friends who are street artists and started putting things on the street,” she recalls. “That’s how I became connected with Atlanta and started to understand the urban landscape. I began to feel connected to people as they commented on the art we were putting on the streets. And that’s when I realized my art actually touched someone. Street art made me feel like I had a voice and was connected.”
Now, as curator and director of recently opened The Gallery in Little Five Points, Campana is building strong connections with artists around the globe as well as art lovers in Atlanta. In fact, it was the Poncey-Highland resident’s connection to street art that got her the gig. The Gallery is adjacent to Wish, a Moreland Avenue boutique owned by Lauren Amos, who knew Campana through her work.
“Lauren also has a foundation that I’ve been connected with for a while,” Campana says. “She’s seen the work I’ve done, and when she knew she was going to open this creative space, she reached out to me to be the gallery curator.” Campana has built a reputation in the city’s art community through her work with Living Walls, a nonprofit she co-founded nine years ago that grew out of those early forays into street art. She and a friend developed a proposal around street art that was encouraged by the creative talent at Eyedrum, the downtown community gallery and performance space.
“We had no money and no clue how to make it happen,” Campana says. “But we created a name, Living Walls, then set up a website to get artists excited about coming to Atlanta to paint murals. The first year we hosted 18 artists from all over, and it became a full-on arts nonprofit that’s created more than 150 murals.”
Through Living Walls, Campana expanded the artistic contacts that will come into play as a new gallery curator. “I have a chance to showcase artists who have been on my radar,” she says. “Some of them I’ve wanted to work with for some time.”
Campana also plans to give a cross section of artists the same chance she had to engage and connect with the city’s art audience. But she wants to do it in unexpected ways.
“I’m trying to break away from traditional gallery rules and bring more diversity into this space,” she says. “Most of my artists here are female, of color or queer. I took that idea from the audience from Little Five. At the same time, I want artists who think outside the box. I believe if the work is different, maybe presented differently and looking at social issues, we’ll have something that’s more responsive to our times.”
With The Gallery’s debut in February, Campana established that objective. And the public has responded: More than 300 showed up to explore the first show, a retrospective of graffiti and hip-hop photographs by Martha Cooper. “I picked her work because it’s focused on urban living,” says Campana, “and it was amazing to see so many people turn out to see it.”
On display this month are works by mixed-media artist Pastiche Lumumba, who explores the role of the internet in society and other pop culture themes. Look for new exhibitions each month.
STORY: H.M. Cauley
PHOTO: Stephen Payne