By David Pendered
In a city that struggles to strike a balance in honoring its leaders, past and present, a new installation of public art in southwest Atlanta promises to hit the right notes.
The bronze and stainless steel sculpture is the creation of nationally renowned artist Ayokunle Odeleye, of Stone Mountain. The sculpture, “Chi Wara Sundial Lantern,” is designed to function as a sundial by day and a lantern by night. The names of community leaders from Cascade Heights, in southwest Atlanta, are inscribed in markers at each point of the dial.
The dedication ceremony set for Saturday at 10 a.m. has flown under the radar, especially when compared to recent commemorations that have stirred controversy – the naming of John Portman Boulevard and the installation of a statue honoring Andy Young, to name just two.
These are the 12 leaders who are honored for their contributions to the political, spiritual and cultural affairs of the community and to Atlanta:
- Benjamin E. Mays: Morehouse College President / Advisor to U.S. President;
- C.T. Vivian: Minister;
- Romae T. Powell (Judge);
- Dr. Gerald L. Durley / Minister;
- Dr. Vivien Davenport / Community worker;
C.A. Scott / Founder, Atlanta Daily World;
- Leroy Johnson / First black state senator;
- Curtis Patterson / Nationally recognized sculptor;
- Dr. Clinton Warner: Instrumental in the desegregation of southwest Atlanta in 1963;
- 10. Alice Washington: Research librarian;
- 11. Evelyn Frazier: Civil Rights activist;
- 12. Lowell Ware: Founder of Atlanta Voice.
Odeleye was selected by an art selection committee to design a sculpture for a plaza that anchors a new streetscape project that’s part of Atlanta’s comprehensive effort to bolster the gateway of, and primary road through, Cascade Heights, a neighborhood that has been the historic home of Atlanta’s black business and political leaders.
In creating the sculpture for the Cascade community, Odeleye drew inspiration from the folklore of Mali, the country located just inland of the coast of West Africa.
In the Malian culture, a headdress honors Chi Wara, a mythical creature comprised of half man, half antelop who taught man how to cultivate the soil, according to a description at hamillgallery.com.
According to an advisory released by the city, the Chi Wara image, “is used as a headdress in a special ceremonial harvest dance designed to pass on knowledge from the elders to young people in the village. Odeleye’s ‘Chi Wara Sundial Lantern’ interprets this mythological image and conceptually uses it to suggest the ceremonial passing of scholarship from Cascade elders to the youth of this community.”
The dedication on Saturday precedes the opening on Nov. 10 of a two-month exhibition of Odeleye’s work at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, on Bennett Street in Buckhead.
According to the museum’s website: “MOCA GA is especially excited about this exhibition as it offers the public the unique opportunity to view the many processes undertaken by a professional sculptor in the design and execution of diverse and monumental gateway structures that serve as architectural markers for community identity.”
The artist now serves as a tenured art professor at Kennesaw State University. Over the past 30 years, he has taught at schools including Spelman College of Art, Georgia State University, Duke Ellington School for the Arts (Washington, D.C.), and Fulton County public schools.
The new installation is located at the intersection of Cascade Road and Benjamin E. Mays Drive. The sculpture is part of the Cascade streetscape improvement program, which was allocated in the 2008 Quality of Life bond program.
The cost was $70,000, including design, fabrication and installation, according to Eddie Granderson, Atlanta’s public art program manager.