If you think art is just something that hangs in museums and galleries, it is time for you to change your thinking. People in the Atlanta Metro area definitely need to check out the public art on display at Elevate /Art Above Underground. Public art is not new to Atlanta. The Beltline project has featured public art, and you can find murals and tags all over the city of varying quality; however, Elevate has brought together talented artists of multiple mediums from around the city and around the world. Elevate has plenty of murals on walls, but also has sculptures, poetry, video, a vinyl waterfall going down concrete steps, vinyl murals in windows, a wall of televisions, painted window displays, and photography.
Elevate is the brainchild of Eddie Granderson, the Public Art Program Manager for the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs, part of the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs. Granderson is excited to “bridge the gap” between Atlanta’s young artists and the people of downtown Atlanta. He also wants the art to draw people down to the Underground. One of the people supporting Granderson is Robert Witherspoon, Project Supervisor for the City of Atlanta Public Art Program. Witherspoon is himself an artist, and he has been helping the project in many different ways.
If you have been following BURNAWAY on Twitter, Tumblr, or Flickr, you have seen extensive photographic coverage of the construction of Elevate, along with the VIP party and grand opening. While providing this coverage, I ran into Witherspoon a lot, whether he was hauling equipment or working on displays. There are two other people that have been critical to getting Elevate off the ground—Courtney Hammond of Dashboard Co-Op and Danny Davis of Dance Truck. I saw both of them no matter what time of day I went down to photograph Elevate’s progress. Hammond coordinated all of the action and did the legwork of getting agreements signed with building owners and coordinating the activities of the artists. Davis was the muscle and man on the ground, in the air, or wherever he needed to be to get the artwork up.
All of this hard work would have been to no avail if not for the outstanding work of the artists. Deanna Sirlin’s waterfall of vinyl going down the steps leading to the Underground is an engaging work of art, not to mention one that holds up to people walking on it. The SAM 3 mural on Alabama Street reaches dizzying heights, while below, the Sunday Southern Art Revival window/wall mural grabs the attention of passersby. Sarah Emerson painted murals that were then printed on a brand new transparent medium that her team taped into the windows on Alabama Street and Central Avenue. It looks nice during the day, but really stands out at night.
The grand opening on August 26th drew a smaller crowd than the organizers hoped for, but one that was appreciative of the art and the live performances from Allison Rentz, Lelavision, Noot d’ Noot, Doodledrag, Nathan Sharratt, and others. Rentz put on a performance with people dressed in white outfits that were checking audience members for radioactivity. Lelavision put on an acrobatic performance and Noot d’ Noot played lively music to cap off the event. Sharratt was extending his “family” by performing a ritual with people to make them “blood brothers” or “blood sisters.” Lillian Blades had a sculpture on Alabama Street that attendees could add to. Children and adults took the process of adding to the sculpture quite seriously.
The Atlanta arts community has been supportive of Elevate. At the grand opening, I ran into members of Dance Truck, gloATL, Flux Projects, SCAD professors, BURNAWAY, gallery owners, and others. Living Walls also participated in Elevate, while still doing their own murals around the city and at the Goat Farm. It’s clear that Elevate is tapping into Atlanta artists’ desire to collaborate and create great art locally.
If you are upset you missed the opening, the art will be on display until October 30, 2011. More live performances by artists have been scheduled over the sixty-six-day run, and you can find a flipbook schedule here.
My advice is to schedule a time where you can see the work by day, grab a bite to eat, and then walk around again at night. Sirlin’s waterfall looks good by day, but looks otherworldly under the lights at night. Emerson’s window art also looks best by night, as does Chris Chambers’ wall of televisions on Peachtree Street.
On the Elevate blog, Camille Russell Love, Director of the Office of Cultural Affairs, said “Public Art installations throughout Atlanta will birth an appreciation for art in and around Atlanta. The addition of Elevate / Art Above Underground to the public art offerings will allow residents and visitors to explore art within a context of a culturally rich city which will contribute to the image of Atlanta as a thriving cultural hub.” The variety and scale of the art present at Elevate is impressive. Residents can appreciate the art as they go about their lives, and visitors coming in for Falcons games, Braves games, or Dragon*Con will see Atlanta as a vibrant art community. In conversations with members of Sunday Southern Art Revival and some of the other featured artists, everyone enjoyed the chance to make art with other artists in a variety of different mediums. One of the Sunday Southern Art Revival members even quit his day job to work on this project. While the City of Atlanta provided grants to defray the costs of producing the art, the artists themselves were working for free for the opportunity to do what they love in a vibrant location. Elevate appears to be a success for both the artists and the community of Atlanta.
Elevate / Art Above Underground will host a number of public art exhibitions and performances in Downtown, Atlanta through October 30, 2011. For more information on programming, check out their events guide.
For more images from the opening visit BURNAWAY on flickr.