Design of the Week | Atlanta's Public Art
I spent part of the holiday break in Atlanta, where the weather was gorgeous, for some needed rest, relaxation, and vitamin D. With the great weather, we spent a solid chunk of time outdoors, hiking in a nearby state park, and strolling along a section of the city's recently completed Beltline. Similar to New York's Highline, the Beltline uses an old train track to wend through the city, while connecting neighborhoods that may have previously taken roundabout driving routes to reach.
Originally begun as a project proposal by an ambitious grad student, the Beltline has 4 miles finished and usable of a planned 26 miles. What's so striking about the Beltline though, is the amount of public art, and the type of art that it features. Whereas the Highline feels sterile and aims to incorporate more greenspace for the city, the Beltline in contrast feels much more hands-off, and more community-driven. The art there is vibrant, funky, energetic, and stimulating. There could be a massive manga strip underneath an overpass towering over a doorway to a "tiny house" affixed to a pillar.
That spirit stretches outside the Beltline, too. As we wandered through the adjacent neighborhood of Cabbagetown, where a massive freeway divider—which in most cities would be a flat, neutral khaki—was adorned with everything from a comics panel, to a guy pointing to his Atlanta hat, to a colorful meta mural of two women standing on the front porches of their duplexes... opposite the front porches of a duplex where two women purporting spend a lot of time standing outside.
It may have just been the number of people outside enjoying the nice weather, but the Beltline felt more like a social activity than a solitary exercise destination. As I went for a run one afternoon, I came upon a pair of young graffiti artists tagging an openly designated graffiti zone. There was a gaggle of middle-aged folks who had gathered to observe. It wasn't adversarial, but almost encouraging or curious. It reminded me of Columbus' Urban Scrawl, but something you could encounter or engage with in everyday life.