Public art project breaks mold

Stark creations dot urban landscape

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."

French author Marcel Proust's words, etched onto one of artist Ruth Stanford's 12 Victorian-styled signs, embodies the spirit of the city's summer public art project, on display now at a sprinkling of parks.

"Consider the small tree nearby, a baldcypress," Stanford says under the quotation, beckoning park pedestrians to linger and look at the wonders of Grant Park, Atlanta's oldest public green space.

Stanford, 43, noticed that each tree is marked with a number for maintenance purposes. She expanded their identities by creating pods of information, culled from weeks of careful research about the Olmsted-designed park.

Stanford chose words that were sometimes poetic, sometimes profound. Words from neighborhood oral historians and the scrapbooks of a women's garden club. Stanford's pods remind Atlantans of the 88 species of birds at the park as well as its painful history of segregation.

Stanford said she wanted visitors to see beyond the surface in a city that lacks a strong physical presence of history.

"Art is usually behind a red velvet curtain or up on a wall somewhere," she said. "I wanted to engage people."

So did 11 other artists who are participating in "A (New) Genre Landscape," sponsored by the city's Office of Cultural Affairs.

Curator Stuart Keeler said he wanted to encourage Atlantans to get in touch with one another in social space.

"People don't have to know it's art, but they have to engage," Keeler said of the widely varying pieces and performance art.

Wander among the tall trees that now double as soulful orchestral instruments in a collaborative effort called "Last Stand," a symbolic requiem for trees lost to development.

Watch your dreams fly with Michael Reese's interactive installation. Explore games with Nat Slaughter.

Or reflect in Tristan Al-Haddad's contemporary take on a gazebo, a mirrored stainless structure held together with glass tubes bearing green fluorescent bulbs.

As a boy, Al-Haddad was fascinated with mirrors. As a 30-year-old architect and artist, he brings infinite reflections to Brownwood Park, a virtual space that has nothing to do with computers and everything to do with the stuff of dreams.

The park artists said they are excited about the city pursuing such an ambitious and experimental art project.

"Atlanta doesn't have a rich culture for supporting public art," Al-Haddad said. "This gets the ball rolling."

Eddie Granderson, Atlanta's public art program manager, said the city was able to carve out $50,000 for the temporary public art program this summer. But funding is always a problem.

Keeler, 41, who has curated about 15 such projects in other cities, applauded Atlanta for "taking a great leap" in supporting the project. The artists, he said, have experimented with innovative ideas. This is not public art, but art in a public space.

THE ARTISTS DISCUSS THEIR WORK

• Witness: Ruth Stanford, Sunday, 6 p.m.; Grant Park, 840 Cherokee Ave.

• Last Stand: Martha Whittington, Raymondo Vaughn, Julie Newton and Coby Cranman; Tuesday, 6 p.m.; Grant Park, 840 Cherokee Ave.

• Blips: Avantika Bawa; Wednesday, 6 p.m.; East Lake, 2617 Memorial Drive

• Waking: Angus Galloway; Thursday, 6 p.m.; Lake Claire, 430 Lakeshore Blvd.

• Community Profiles: Matt Haffner; June 14, 4:30 p.m.; Coan Park, 1560 Woodbine Ave.

• You Are Here — Video and Star Gazing: Danielle Roney; June 14, 8:30 p.m.; Adair II, 866 Murphy Ave.

• Portals: Steve Jarvis and Susan Krause; June 16, 6 p.m.; Perkerson Park, 770 Dekner Ave.

• Artist in Residence (The Mozley Park Project): Sheila Pree Bright; June 20, 6 p.m; Mozley Park, 1565 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

• The Bottle Project: Joe Peragine, Pam Longobardi and Craig Dongoski; June 21,

8 p.m.; Sunken Garden Park, 1000 E. Rock Springs Road

• When Pigs Fly: Michael Reese; June 21, 2 p.m.; Grant Park, 840 Cherokee Ave.

• Catch and Land: A Participatory Environments Network: Nat Slaughter; June 23, 6 p.m.; Bessie Branham Park, 2051 Delano Drive

• Virtual Doubling: Tristan Al-Haddad; July 13, 8 p.m.; Brownwood Park, 607 Brownwood Ave.

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