They showed up unexpectedly around St. Patrick’s Day, seven larger-than-life characters clearly looking for a good time.
Everything about them screamed “Tourist,” from their DayGlo bright outfits to the way they never seemed to miss a party or a chance to be in a photo.
But something funny happened not long after the MIDTOWN letters appeared outside Colony Square near the corner of Peachtree and 15th Street.
People started liking them. A lot.
If the letters seem like part of the neighborhood now, that's not an accident. The idea for the giant installation had been "batted around for a few years" at the Midtown Alliance, said Brian Carr, marketing director for the nonprofit that's dedicated to improving and promoting the 120-square block district. Enter North American Properties, which recently acquired Colony Square and is actively redeveloping and "reimagining" it. Carr said NAP was "very receptive" to the idea of creating and installing the letters, which stand eight feet tall and span forty feet in all.
"The vibrant, interactive MIDTOWN installment creates an iconic anchor for our city within a city," said Liz Gillespie, vice president of marketing at North American Properties. "These letters establish a sense of place and further enhance the Midtown brand as the cultural, connected, innovative core of Atlanta."
And how. Almost as soon as the letters appeared, people began taking selfies with them, sometimes posting them on social media with the hashtag #IAmMidtown. In just two months, they've become a staging spot for all sorts of public events, from jazz concerts and a "Bike to Work Day" promotion to an Earth Day celebration.
(A TV news crew covers the Bike to Work day event, which encouraged people to take their photos in front of the giant letters and post them on social media with the hashtag #MidtownATLBikes).
Even Baton Bob showed up at the letters during a sidewalk chalk art event celebrating Earth Day.
But it's the less formal side of the letters that really seems to appeal to people. Along with taking photos with them, many people like to rest along side them -- even inside them, in some cases.
A lot of people -- especially a lot of guys, ahem! -- can't seem to resist climbing on top of them.
(The Midtown Alliance recently took a staff photo in front of, around and on top of the letters it had long dreamed of bringing to the area.)
The letters' presence have even inspired at least one work of art. Dawn Kinney Martin is an award-winning painter who lives not far from the area around 15th and Peachtree. What had to her for so long felt like "a dead space trying to become interesting" has come to life now thanks to the colorful letters and people's interactions with them, she said.
So much so, in fact, that she recently did a "plein air" painting of them, seen here:
It's all part of an increasingly hip and happening Midtown. More specifically, a "booming hub filled with high-tech pioneers and a restaurant and nightlife scene that is world-class." That's how former Mayor Andrew Young described Midtown in the official Atlanta Super Bowl bid video that just helped land the city the 2019 game. That section of the video began with a glorious sweeping sight of -- you guessed it -- the MIDTOWN letters.
Indeed, they've become such a place to see and be seen that you've gotta wonder if somewhere Downtown, an older, less colorful set of giant letters aren't just starting to feel a wee bit envious.
Quipped Carr, of the Midtown Alliance: "We have many more colors and our letters outnumber CNN's two to one!"
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