$250M RenewATL Bond Could Boost Public Art

Thornton Dial’s The Bridge, in the John Lewis Plaza on the corner of Freedom Parkway and Ponce de Leon, sited in 2005.
Thornton Dial’s The Bridge, in the John Lewis Plaza on the corner of Freedom Parkway and Ponce de Leon, sited in 2005.

In addition to road and bridge repairs, traffic lights, bike lanes, and other transportation and municipal needs, the $250-million Renew Atlanta 2015 Infrastructure Bond referendum that Atlantans will vote on on March 17 includes an appropriation for the city’s languishing public art program.

The Office of Cultural Affairs oversees the city’s public art collection, which includes 127 public sculptures and monuments valued at over $22 million. The program is funded through a percent-for-art requirement, in effect since 2001, that sets aside 1.5 percent of capital project budgets for art commissions.

Beverly Buchanan, Hard Days Work Shack, 1988, at Studioplex, 659 Auburn Ave.
Beverly Buchanan, Hard Days Work Shack, 1988, at Studioplex, 659 Auburn Ave.

Of the $12 million designated for public art, $3.75 million would be for the percent-for-art program, $7 million would be used to commission and realize new works, and $1.25 million would be for restoration and maintenance of the existing collection. In some cases, says OCA director Camille Love, that will involve moving works to different, more prominent locations, including Beverly Buchanan’s Hard Days Work Shack (1988) at Studioplex in the Old Fourth Ward, and Curtis Patterson’s Urban Path (1985) in Grove Park.

In a recent editorial board meeting with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mayor Reed, when questioned about the figure, emphasized his support for the public art component, saying “I think that art matters.” While art is often used to enhance property value and increase commercial appeal, it is seen by some developers and government officials as a quality of life measure. Much of it consists of things like sidewalk mosaics and decorative handrails in addition to larger sculptural projects.

Love says that new plans would connect Freedom Park with the nearby Carter Center and King Memorial to create a public art tribute to civil and human rights. Freedom Park was designated as the city’s “art park” in 2007 but has yet to live up to the appellation. It contains a handful of permanent works and has at times hosted temporary installations, such as those by Flux Projects.

In an attempt to increase the city public art collection’s visibility, the OCA recently launched a free interactive app intended to take users “through downtown Atlanta corridors and historical sites and monuments that speak to the heart of Atlanta’s character.”

Residents can influence the final project list by attending a public meeting or by contacting their city council members. To see the draft list of projects, visit www.infrastructuremap.org.

The final public hearing on the Renew Atlanta 2015 Infrastructure Bond will be on February 26 at City Hall.

Elizabeth Catlett, People of Atlanta, 1989/90, bronze, in City Hall.
Elizabeth Catlett, People of Atlanta, 1989/90, bronze, in City Hall.

Don’t know what we have here in Atlanta? Here’s the OCA’s list of its Top Ten public art projects, selected by Robert Witherspoon, conservation, maintenance and collection manager:

Isamu Noguchi: Playscapes

Thornton Dial: The Bridge

Sol Le Witt: Wall Drawing #581

Curtis Patterson: Andrew Young Tribute Plaza

Alexander Doyle: Henry W. Grady

Jim Siegler (designer) & Gamba Quirino: Atlanta From the Ashes (Phoenix Rising)

David Hammonds: Nelson Mandela Must Be Free to Lead His People and South Africa to Peace and Prosperity

Elizabeth Cattlet: People of Atlanta

George Beasley: Five Points Monument

Xavier Campaney Medina: Homage to King

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