A public art exhibition in Atlanta has been torn down due to reiterating negative stereotypes about black inmates and black communities.

The art exhibition displays one company’s initiative to help prisoners be rehabilitated with the help of shelter dogs. Canine CellMates was created in 2013 and aims to help prisoners avoid being re-incarcerated and helps rescued dogs to go to good homes through a 10-week course, consisting of education, training and overall care for the dogs.

Sounds good, the only problem is a public art exhibition that showcased the work of Canine CellMates only used black prisoners to display their programme, causing outrage. Created in partnership with Atlanta BeltLine, a company dedicated to the transportation and economic development of Atlanta, the exhibition was created to help promote the positive outcome of rehabilitation with the help of dogs.

Atlanta resident Shawn Deangelo Walton who lives near the exhibition tore it down after being angered by the fact that the display only used black inmates, reinforcing negative stereotypes about the black community and incarceration. The exhibition was especially offensive considering it was put up in a neighbourhood that one resident reported was at least ‘90% black.’

Canine Cellmates responded by saying that it wasn’t their intention to reinforce negative stereotypes around race. Also speaking on the controversy, Atlanta BeltLine issued a statement saying how the exhibition “was created to make art accessible to everyone by bringing the exhibit to public spaces and in doing so, be respectful of the community. The photos that were displayed did not reflect our commitment to do that. 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.”