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Whether it was intentional or poor public relations, many residents of southwest Atlanta are saying good riddance to offensive pieces of public art displayed on the Atlanta BeltLine.

BeltLine officials apologized in a statement for the display, which shows Black inmates petting dogs in prison, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Officials said their intention was to bring art to public spaces that’s respectful of the community.

“The photos that were displayed did not reflect our commitment to do that,” the statement continued. “The community is understandably and justifiably upset and for that we humbly apologize. We make no excuses and are in the process of investigating the process of how this occurred in order to take the most appropriate action to ensure this does not happen again.”

These images were place on the Westside Beltline Trail off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

A program called Canine CellMates inspire the photographs, WSB-TV reported. The program’s director told the news outlet that the organization uses dogs to help prisoners, and the photographs were not intended to offend the community.

They were originally part of a larger exhibit before several pieces were added to the BeltLine’s public art collection. Consequently, people are seeing the photographs out of context.

One critic told WSB-TV that he walks his dog pass the artworks every day and wondered why they included only Black inmates.

“I think what we have in our society is a system that criminalizes being African American and to go into a neighborhood that I think is 90 percent Black and just put up these pics of Black men as prisoners is a bit toxic,” the resident, who is White, told WSB-TV.

Shawn Deangelo Walton, an artist who lives in the community, told WSB-TV that he removed the offensive photographs and replaced them with his own artwork, which Walton said shows positive images of Black families. He told the outlet that “it’s personal” for him and the community.

SOURCE: Atlanta Journal-Constitution, WSB-TV


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