Six months ago, the BeltLine committee questioned the feasibility of calling local artists to complete projects along the corridor by June 2010. Last week, tours of the interim trail showcased the previously abandoned land as a venue for over 40 local artists’ work. Site-specific sculpture, collaborations, and performances aim to erase the indifference and neglect that has littered the BeltLine route for several decades.
To make the current display possible, hundreds of volunteers removed trash, debris, and construction materials that had gathered on the grounds. Curiosity about activity on the BeltLine has started to draw sightseers through a 21-mile loop of land that, until recently, many perceived as a city-wide gutter.
Several artists did not limit themselves to a single anchored site. Some projects, including Misinformation by Gregor Turk, span throughout the corridor and encourage viewers to walk. Turk’s trail markers superimpose the BeltLine route over a map of other major cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Humorous “what if” scenarios include a short description of the new orientation of the BeltLine within each destination. The signs allow viewers to find their place on the disorienting map, addressing the potential, progress, and possible oversights of this large urban initiative. Other attractions that draw visitors through the trail are a series of life-size Wanderers created by the Paper Twins.
Beacon Dance Company interacts with a 75-foot picnic table that snakes through trees and weeds similar to the way in which the Beltline will weave through Atlanta’s neighborhoods, parks, and districts. Since the table will eventually provide a common space for dialogue and exchange between community members, its presence suggests the corridor’s potential as a viable public square. Beacon Dance will continue to perform throughout the summer, along with several scheduled storytellers and musicians.
Michi Meko’s Co-Exist adresses the lines drawn between class and race, organized and perpetuated by the placement of BeltLine railways. His experimental habitats invite birds from different sides of the tracks to nest together. Pods situated 18 feet above the ground provide a home for multiple species of birds. If it is possible to disengage from social structures with an artistic gesture, that is what Meko attempts to do through Co-Exist.
These and several other participating artists have rejected practices that confound the audience as they lay the groundwork for meaningful dialogue about art and the BeltLine proposal. Art on the BeltLine is expected to be an annual event hosting new artists in addition to many who are already contributing. The current display will be extended and maintained through October 2010.