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Canvas Clash: An Interview with Terry Guy of Secret Walls

Published May 17, 2024

With the launch of Secret Walls in 2006, Terry Guy shook up the live art scene by intertwining competition, community and sheer talent into an electrifying spectacle that has mesmerized audiences all over the globe.

Cover image: Ja Tecson

This founder’s story is not just about the inception of a groundbreaking platform; it’s a narrative steeped in decades of dedication to the arts and street culture, marked by roles that shaped the UK’s street art landscape and collaborations with the globe’s most esteemed artists.

Now residing in Los Angeles, his vision for Secret Walls has transformed blank canvases into battlegrounds where creativity and competition fuse, making every stroke of black paint a step towards legendary status. In this conversation with the mastermind behind Secret Walls, we will take you on a trip through the adrenaline-fueled art battles that are reshaping our understanding of art and entertainment.

Terry Guy sporting a jacket with Secret Wall’s motto. Photo: Ja Tecson

IG: Can you tell us about your background and how Secret Walls came about? What inspired you to create a competitive live art event?

SW: Secret Walls was born out of a desire to bring the raw energy of artistic expression to the forefront of the live art experience. My background in the art world and a deep appreciation for the power of live performance art, B-Boy, and MC battles inspired me to create this competitive platform.

I wanted to provide artists with a space to showcase their talents in a thrilling, competitive environment, and to offer audiences an electrifying visual experience unlike any other…. I am also a huge soccer (football) guy and loved making an art event that was heavily inspired by sports!

Host Nick Major hypes the crowd during a Secret Walls battle in Pomona, CA during the Support Your Local Artist Tour, 2022. Photo: Finn Peterson
Artists The Obanoth and AngelOnce celebrate their win at a Secret Walls Battle in Pomona, CA on the Support Your Local Artist Tour, 2022. Photo: Finn Peterson

IG: What do you look for when selecting artists to compete in the events? Do they need to meet a certain criteria?

SW: When selecting artists for our events, we look for talented individuals who not only possess exceptional skill and creativity but also thrive under pressure. While there isn’t a strict criteria per se, we seek diversity in styles and backgrounds to ensure each battle is dynamic and engaging every time.

Artist Audifax during a Secret Walls battle in Madison, WI on the Support Your Local Artist Tour, 2022. Photo: Finn Peterson

IG: Apart from understanding the basic rules, is there any preparation involved for the artists before competing?

SW: Beyond agreeing to the basic rules, we encourage artists to apply their own preparation rituals and take unique approaches to the battle, for example, experimenting with new techniques or ways to make marks on the canvas. My favorite is when we do team battles and artists have just a few minutes prior to the battle to discuss battle strategies with their teammate, who they might also be meeting for the first time.

Secret Walls Battle at Tampa Walls Festival in Tampa, FL in 2024. Photo: Utopia Imagery
Battle paint on stage at a Secret Walls battle. Photo: Finn Peterson

IG: When Secret Walls first started, the live battles exclusively featured black and white paint on murals, but the event has since evolved to incorporate new disciplines like digital illustration, 3D, VR and even NFT battles. Could you tell us about some of these additions and explain how the basic format varies across different categories?

SW: While traditional black and white murals will always be an integral part of Secret Walls battles, we’ve expanded over the last few years to embrace a myriad of artistic disciplines, including digital illustration, 3D, VR, and NFT battles.

Each category brings its own unique challenges and opportunities, but the essence of competition and creativity remains at the core of our format. We realized as the creative world was evolving, we could expand into new areas to allow us to support and collaborate with new types of artists.

A Secret Walls battle taking place across the entire wall of a building at BLINK Festival in Cincinnati, in 2022. Photo: Finn Peterson

IG: The Cincinnati event featured your biggest mural battle yet. Is there a plan to continue hosting live events at that scale and would you go even bigger?

SW: The epic 100 foot wall battle at Blink Festival in Cincinnati marked a significant milestone for us, but we’re always looking to push boundaries and explore new frontiers of what a battle could look like. While there’s no doubt we’ll continue hosting large-scale events, our focus remains on creating unforgettable experiences for both artists and audiences, whether big or small. I think where we see a lot of white space is in doubling down outside of the battles and supporting our community on a 24/7 basis.

Artist Mighty Short during a Secret Walls Battle in Portland, OR on the Support Your Local Artist Tour, 2022. Photo: Finn Peterson
Secret Walls Battle at OuterSpace Project in 2022. Photo: ABV Gallery

IG: Having now hosted thousands of battles worldwide, is there a particular moment or creation that has left a lasting impression on you?

SW: Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to witness countless incredible creations and moments of artistic brilliance. I had the privilege to travel all over the globe and collaborate with brands I could have only dreamed about. However, if I had to pick one, it would be the moment when we battled underneath Fenway Park in Boston with 47brand. It was an insane party with electric energy and a NYC vs. Boston lineup.

Artist Chris Haven uses a POSCA marker during a Secret Walls Battle at Denver Walls Festival in 2023. Photo: Owen Braley
Artists battling in Secret Walls Battle at Tampa Walls Festival in Tampa, FL in 2024. Photo: Utopia Imagery

IG: Could you name three of your favorite artists/competitors over the years?

SW: While it’s hard to narrow it down, three artists who have consistently impressed me with their talent and innovation over the years are Reeps One, Matt Gondek, and Dreyfus

A fan at a Secret Walls Battle in Miami in 2016. Photo: Sebastian Ramirez
Secret Walls All Black and White Mural Yard at their Los Angeles HQ, featuring prominent display of “Support your local artist” motto, 2023. Photo: Emmett Methven

IG: Your key statement, “Support your local artist,” is a clear message that shows how important community engagement is for Secret Walls. How do you spread the word about these events and encourage the local community to participate?

SW: SYLA (Support Your Local Artist) DNA is built into our brand ethos, spreading the word about our events and encouraging local participation is essential to us. We leverage social media, local partnerships, and grassroots outreach to ensure our events are inclusive and accessible to all.

Artists Beyond Grasp, Jeremy Biggers, Mariell Guzman and Dummy Fresh with the crowd at a battle in Fort Worth, TX. Photo: Finn Peterson

IG: An aspect of Secret Walls that resonates with us is its focus on diversity and showcasing talents from around the globe, which is very much in line with what we do here at Inspiration Grid. What are the steps you take to ensure a wide representation of artists and styles at your events?

SW: Ensuring a wide representation of artists and styles is a top priority for us. We actively seek out talent from diverse backgrounds and regions, celebrating the rich tapestry of artistic expression from around the globe and creating authentic local ties to wherever we are battling. We proudly build up our artist database week to week and pride ourselves on introducing new talent at every show.

Artist IZA during a Secret Walls Battle at Tampa Walls Festival in Tampa, FL in 2024. Photo: Utopia Imagery

IG: Over the years, Secret Walls has collaborated with a number of iconic brands, including Apple, Red Bull and Capcom. What was your favorite collab so far and are there new ones in the pipeline you can tell us about?

SW: Our collaborations with iconic brands like Apple, Red Bull, and MLS have been incredible opportunities to merge creativity with culture. While I’ve cherished each collaboration, there are exciting new partnerships on the horizon that I can’t wait to unveil including some fun news with POSCA and Monster Ultra Energy. 

Artists MDMN, Goopmassta, Blue the Great and Captain Kris using POSCA Markers during a Secret Walls Battle at the launch party for Street Fighter 6 in Los Angeles, 2023. Photo: Jaime Guerrero
A Secret Walls Battle in Los Angeles, CA, at the launch party for Street Fighter 6 in 2023. Photo: Jaime Guerrero

IG: Can you share any stories about an event that was particularly challenging to organize? How did you overcome those challenges at the time? 

SW: Our team is small but mighty and this is backed up by our huge creative network that allows us to dream big. Organizing large-scale events always comes with its fair share of challenges. However, through careful planning, effective communication, and a dedicated team, we’ve always managed to overcome obstacles and deliver exceptional experiences.

Secret Walls battle in Houston, TX on the Support Your Local Artist Tour, 2022. Photo: Finn Peterson

IG: Looking towards the future, how do you see the Secret Walls brand and live battle formats evolving? Are there any new ideas or concepts planned? 

SW: As we look to the future, I envision Secret Walls continuing to evolve and innovate, exploring new formats, technologies, and collaborations. Our goal is to remain at the forefront of live art entertainment, constantly pushing the boundaries of creativity and competition. We dream of placing live arts back in the Olympics in 2028 and are currently building out our Secret Walls Academy (education platform).

Secret Walls Battle at Mural Festival in Montreal, 2023. Photo: Sofie Hojabri
Crowd at a Secret Walls Halloween Battle at SW HQ in Los Angeles, 2023. Photo: Mike Castro

IG: Finally, for those new to Secret Walls events, what tips would you give them to ensure they make the most of the experience?

SW: For those new to Secret Walls universe, my advice is simple: immerse yourself fully in the experience and community. Embrace the energy of the competition and collaboration, engage with the artists and friends, and let your creativity run wild. And, above all else, remember to support your local artists – they’re the heart and soul of our community.


If you want to learn more about Secret Walls and have a shot at joining one of their live battles, head over to their website for all the details.

Artists battling on a rooftop in Las Vegas, 2023. Photo: Secret Walls
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