With a downtown hotel, limited time and a number of the sights I wanted to see all nearby, I didn’t get the chance to see a great deal of Atlanta. With what free time I had, I dedicated that to getting to a Braves game and to checking out three museums and tours that peaked my interest. Traveling to and from those things and a couple of restaurants and craft beer bars, I stumbled across some interesting public art over my four days in the city. One of my favourites ended up being a design by fellow Canadian, Jeff Santos of Coquitlam BC. This children’s playground was built in the shape of “ATL”, the airport code and general shorthand reference for the city. I found it visually striking and a nice touch to a public park in the centre of the city.
Every time I stepped out of my hotel I came face to face with the Carnegie Pavilion which was preserved from original 1901 Carnegie Central Library. This is now a monument to higher education in Atlanta, fitting for me since I was attending a conference of medical school administrators. On the floor of the pavilion are the seals of nine Atlanta area universities and colleges.
Keeping with the educational theme, “No Goal is Too High” was designed by students at Georgia State University. I liked symbolism of the figures climbing higher and higher on the stacks of books.
In Woodruff Park, the International Peace Fountain symbolizes the role Atlanta played in the American civil rights movement. It was originally constructed in 1995 but had to be repaired over the past few years due to neglect and inoperability during a series of droughts in the city.
“Emerging” by Atlanta sculptor Mark Smith brought some life to an area of the city that is hemmed in by skyscrapers and shadows. The sculpture is of a man in the process of standing up. There’s a great public art app put out by the city of Atlanta that I used while walking around the downtown, and listening to commentary on this installation I learned that the polished surfaces were meant to reflect the streets and buildings in the area and show man emerging from a built, not natural, environment.
In a city devoted to the automobile it didn’t surprise me to find a number of busy highways and overpasses bisecting the city. What did surprise me was that in a couple of places there were interesting art installations to bring some life to what would otherwise be a dreary concrete locale. The first installation I explored contained multiple pieces of art – “Faces on the Wall” (the red beams with faces affixed to them) by Willer Tarver, “Art Furniture” by Harold Rittenberry and “Eve” and “Adam” by Archie Byron.
On another highway interchange, “Whirligigs” by Vollis Simpson was a nice breath of fresh air amongst all of the cars speeding past. This piece was commissioned for the 1996 Olympics that were hosted in Atlanta.
In the same folk art spirit, I really liked “Rolling Hills of Georgia” by Reuben Aaron Miller, and in particular, the use of the “grass” feature here. It was a nice juxtaposition against all of the concrete and glass of the area.
Located diagonally across the intersection, and the last installation of public art I saw in Atlanta, was “Homage to St. EOM’s Pasaquan” by Eddie Owens Martin. The artist’s homestead of Pasaquan housed over two thousand pieces of his artwork, and these pieces installed here after his death by suicide are maintained by a society to keep his art, and memory of his life, alive.
Even though this trip was purposeful and crammed full with little time to simply wander and “be”, these pieces of art added at least a touch of that to my time in Atlanta. These each gave me a peaceful interlude in a busy and hectic city.