Now in its third year, the Art on the Atlanta BeltLine has made fantastic progress. For readers who are unfamiliar with this initiative, the Atlanta BeltLine will connect 45 neighborhoods in Atlanta by restoring 22 miles of historic railroad corridors into multi-use trails and helping to create more green space, transit, and affordable housing. As part of this, the opened areas are host to a yearly temporary art exhibition featuring performances and temporary artworks.
I recently joined a tour of the Eastside trail, which runs from Piedmont Park to Irwin Street near DeKalb Avenue. The new construction has created large stretches of trail, much of it paved, making easy pedestrian travel in Atlanta actually seem like a near reality. As we walked, I was astonished at the open views provided by the trail. From unencumbered visions of downtown buildings to tree-lined vistas and backyard neighborhood views, these are new angles with which to observe and enjoy Atlanta. It is appropriate with the opening of new trails and views that many of the works in this year’s Art on the Atlanta BeltLine deal with themes of thresholds and light.
Jason Smith’s Guimard Gate, an ironwork piece made of crushed pipe and forged iron, graces the BeltLine at Monroe Avenue. The arcs of forged iron offer a pleasing contrast to the confluence of electrical wires and poles lining the street.
At the Irwin Street side of the BeltLine, Neil Carver’s Resurgens is a welded portal styled after a phoenix, the symbol of Atlanta. Brightly colored yet oddly innocuous in its current space, this piece will be moved as construction continues.
Gyun Hur’s Spiritus Lenus, is a fence of bright yarns to the side of the trail at the end of Angier Springs Road Northeast. The colorful strings highlight the tags on the adjacent building. Rather than serving as a barrier between the trail and this wall. it visually bridges the two. The work was being installed at the time of my photo, but it is scheduled for completion by October 13.
Other works play with light and shadow. Mike Jensen’s Gnomon II resembles window-heavy office buildings. This work is an empty structure, however, allowing light to pass through. The resulting shadows add a startling depth to the work.
The BeltLine Bridge, by Mike Wsol and Georgia State University’s Department of 3D Studies, is an even greater structural play on light and shadow. Resembling a shotgun house, the piece narrows on one end, creating a tunnel-like interior and an exterior resembling a house frame. It’s a brilliant use of illusory and inverse space and is the most dramatic piece I’ve seen yet on the BeltLine.
There are several works with frame-like or reflective properties. A few excellent examples are Leslie Tharp’s Startle and Alex Rodriguez DMD’s Whirling Wheels. Startle features metal frames resembling deer that appear to have wandered past the BeltLine trail. The piece highlights the new green spaces created by the BeltLine and the greater proximity to nature this affords to Atlantans. Whirling Wheels is whimsical series made of bike parts suspended on poles that move with the wind like weather vanes, a dynamic representation of the thrilling possibilities of transport created by the BeltLine.
Overall, this year’s Art on the BeltLine features optimistic and playful works that capture the artists’ enthusiasm for this great public initiative.
The official dedication for the Eastside Trail will be held on October 15 at 10AM. The visual works installed on the trail will be on view through November 11.