Where to find outdoor sculptures around metro Atlanta

“Peace Sign,” a sculpture in Sandy Springs by Joe and Terry Malesky surely will get viewers feeling groovy. Courtesy of the City of Sandy Springs.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

This artwork can be experienced by anyone and loved by everyone.

Wanting Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul to choose his city’s favorite outdoor sculpture is akin to asking which of his five children is his favorite. "If I need to give you one that stands out, it is “Optimistical,” he says. “I enjoy the clean lines, the creative use of color to capture and refract light, the symmetry of the circular metal and the ability to notice something new and different each time I see it.”

Not everyone may have Paul’s artistic aesthetic, but metro Atlanta has a wealth of sculptures that will provoke a range of emotions in people of all ages and demographics. A piece of sculpture can send a social message, allow one’s imagination to run wild, offer a beacon for contemplation, inspire one to think (or be bewildered) and, at the very least, offer a great Instagram shot.

“Optimistical” is Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul's favorite sculpture. Courtesy of the City of Sandy Springs.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

“Public art is one medium that can be experienced at a distance, so it’s great during COVID,” says Angie Macon, executive director of the Decatur Arts Alliance. “It’s something that everyone can enjoy. It’s free and accessible to the public.”

Throughout the area, arts groups, municipalities, colleges, individuals and businesses have graced the area with signature pieces of sculpture, and in the process, supported local, national and international artists. Whether you are walking the BeltLine, lunching in a park, looking outside your office window (when you are in the office) or randomly stumbling across a piece of art, outdoor sculptures are always a welcomed respite from everyday life.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution offers several locations to view and appreciate outdoor sculpture.

Roswell

Started in 2016, ArtAround Roswell is a partnership between the Roswell Arts Fund and the City of Roswell. Currently, the collection includes 10 permanent and 10 temporary sculptures, all of which are placed in the city’s parks, historic district and in front of private businesses. The temporary pieces are on loan from the artist for 11 months and are available for purchase.

Ghila Sanders, executive director of the Roswell Arts Fund, believes that public art has the “power to shape and change the way we experience our spaces.”

“Sentience,” located on Canton Street, is by Georgia native David Landis, who also has a sculpture on Atlanta’s BeltLine as well as in Decatur. “Sentience,” which was purchased in 2017, is a delicate stainless steel sculpture of a flower with only a few petals partially formed, symbolizing the temporary nature of the flower’s beauty.

The fragile nature of a flower is explored in David Landis’ “Sentience,” displayed on Canton Street in Roswell. Courtesy of Cultural Gorilla.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

“Ask the Fish 2.0” is a little, well, bizarre. Basically, it’s a hand holding a fish. But, of course, it represents so much more. In fact, the work symbolizes man’s domination over nature. The fish’s skin is a holographic film that diffracts light and changes colors depending on the light and the viewer’s position. The artist, Dr. Stephen Fairfield, said his inspiration came from reading Job 12:8-10. Figure personal meaning out for yourself by visiting it at Don White Bridge at Ga. 400.

“Ask the Fish 2.0” shows man’s domination over man in a sculpture by Dr. Stephen Fairfield. The sculpture is located at the Don White Bridge at Ga. 400 in Roswell. Courtesy of Cultural Gorilla.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

“Reception” illustrates a Nigerian tradition that visitors should be welcomed by the most beautiful woman in the house and offered a gift. The sculpture by Nigerian Fred Ajanogna is a stone case sculpture of a traditionally dressed African woman holding a drinking gourd. While this piece is located on the Roswell Riverwalk, Ajanogna has works throughout Atlanta, as well as in the private collections of President Jimmy Carter and the late Maya Angelou.

Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech has a number of sculptures worth visiting including a 3,000-pound sculpture of Albert Einstein, which sits on the northwest corner of Tech Green near the Bunger-Henry Building. The sculpture, only one of three created by Robert Berks, came to Tech only after Berks' widow decided it would be a proper fit. If you look closely by Einstein’s foot, there is a star chart engraved in black granite that shows the Atlanta night sky on Dec. 10, 1948, the date of the signing of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

When it was brought to Tech, Madison Cario, arts director for the university, said the piece was a “place to hide if you need to hide. It’s someone to talk to if you need someone… it’s set in an area that’s meant for restorative thinking.”

Albert Einstein sits near the Bunger-Henry Building at Georgia Tech and is one of only three created by Robert Berks. Courtesy of Georgia Tech/Fitrah Hamid.

Credit: Fitrah Hamid

Credit: Fitrah Hamid

While you’re at Georgia Tech, take a look at a bronze and granite sculpture of civil rights icon Rosa Parks at 42 years old, when she participated in the famed bus boycott, and at 92 years old, when she died. The two sit across from each other, with an empty seat in between. The statute, “Continuing the Conversation,” sits in Harrison Square and was designed by Atlanta artist Martin Dawe.

Go over to Georgia Tech and have a conversation with Rosa Parks, a statue by Atlantan Martin Dawe. Courtesy of Georgia Institute of Technology/photo Rob Felt

Credit: Rob Felt

Credit: Rob Felt

Dawe also created “The Three Pioneers,” which depicts Ralph A. Long Jr., Lawrence Williams and Ford C. Green, the first three Black students at Tech and “The First Graduate,” honoring Ronald Yancey, the first Black to graduate from Tech. “The First Graduate” is installed near the G. Wayne Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons, while “The Three Pioneers,” is in Harrison Square.

“The Three Pioneers,” by Atlanta artist Martin Dawe, depicts for first Black students to enroll at Georgia Tech. Courtesy of Georgia Institute of Technology/Christopher Moore

Credit: Christopher Moore

Credit: Christopher Moore

Sandy Springs

Sandy Springs started its sculpture program two years ago. In a partnership with Art Sandy Springs, it hosts ArtSS in the Open, an arts competition where the works of the winners are displayed and possibly purchased. This year the city acquired four pieces: “Optimistical,” by Nathan Pierce; “Doppelganger,” by Carl Billingsley; “Delilah,” by Athens-based Joni Younkins-Herzog, and “Hand Plant,” by Jack Howard-Potter.

“Delilah,” by Joni Younkins-Herzon sits at Abernathy Greenway Park near “Optimistical.” Courtesy of the City of Sandy Springs.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

“Nest” or “Le Voyageur qui Fait son Nid” is by Atlanta’s Corrina Sephora. The nest represents home, the ladder the journey, and together it illustrates that creating a home is both a challenge and a desire, she said. Joe and Terry Malesky of Strafford, Missouri, brings back the ’60s with the “Groovy Peace Sign”, while Nathan Pierce says that “Optimistical” represents hope and confidence about the future. The large stainless steel circular form represents unity and the transparent colored acrylic panels offer a new perspective of the world. It’s located on the Abernathy Greenway Park at the northeast corner of Abernathy and Wright roads. “Delilah” is located nearby.

“We’re working on a master art plan and are identifying places and targeting how we are going to fund it in the long run,” says Sharon Kraus, communications director. “We’ve chosen really interesting pieces.”

“The Nest,” by Atlanta artist Corrina Sephora represents challenge and desire of creating a home. The piece is in Sandy Springs. Courtesy of the City of Sandy Springs.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Decatur

The Decatur Arts Alliance started in 1989 and since the sculpture program started in 2014, about 30 to 35 pieces have been displayed throughout Decatur, according to Macon. “There [are] no criteria as to what’s selected,” she says. "Sometimes it’s a more contemporary piece while others have been whimsical. It’s all over the place.”

Perhaps the most loved statue in Decatur is “Valentine” by George Lundeen. The bronze statue, located in front of the Old Courthouse, shows the endearing love of an elderly couple sitting on the bench holding on to each other. “A lot of weddings come by and pose next to the sculpture,” says Macon. “And a lot of times people come by and dress them up like putting New Year’s Eve hats on them.” Most recently they can be seen wearing Decatur logo masks.

“Coral Stardust” by Elizabeth Akamatsu is a welded steel sculpture that is a metaphor for the human condition of “a complex union of the opposing forces of fragility and strength,” she said.

Elizabeth Akamatsu’s piece, “Coral Stardust” is a steel sculpture that is a metaphor for the human condition. Courtesy of the Decatur Arts Alliance.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Robert D. Clements' steel piece “Flying” grew out of the artist’s happy marriage of 56 years. “The man holds up the woman. The woman, held aloft, reaches out for birds and celestial things, symbols of what is important in life, savoring happy times,” he wrote.

Museums

It almost seems self-evident to mention that great art can be found outside a museum, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The Woodruff Arts Center houses, perhaps, the area’s most famous statue, “The Shade” by August Rodin. A gift of the French Government in 1968, it honors the 122 members and friends of the Atlanta Art Association who perished in a plane crash after an organized art tour of European capitals.

Another iconic sculpture is “House III” by Roy Lichtenstein, which represents the suburban American home. The smaller-than-life sculpture explores the inverted perspective and symbolically complex messages of housing and shelter.

“House III” by Roy Lichtenstein is another colorful piece on the grounds of the Woodruff Arts Center. Courtesy of the Woodruff Arts Center.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

The center’s third piece is “Untitled” and is a bronze work by Joel Shapiro. According to the center, the piece “Enlivens the blocky, somewhat ambiguous figure by implying motion — the figure is frozen in the action of a decisive stride, which emanates tension and kinetic energy.”

Joel Shapiro’s “Untitled,” is a bronze piece that enlivens the blocky, somewhat ambiguous figure by implying motion, even that it is frozen in a decisive stride. Courtesy of the Woodruff Arts Center.

Credit: Handout

Credit: Handout

Many of us go past outdoor sculptures without stopping and looking at them, but hopefully, that will change. Even Kraus, who works with the outdoor art project in Sandy Springs, was surprised by the effect the sculptures had on her.

“When I first saw ‘Delilah,’ I thought it was awful, and it’s grown on me. I saw another piece on paper, ‘Doppelganger,’ and didn’t get it. But now that it’s installed at Windsor Meadows Park, I keep walking around it. It’s a really cool piece,” she says. “It’s really fun to watch people, me included, learn how to interact with the sculptures. It’s a fun exploration.”

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