Atlanta’s homage to Southern folk artists to be restored to pre-Olympics grandeur

By David Pendered

Folk Art Park, Atlanta’s homage to Southern folk artists including Howard Finster and Lonnie Holley, is on track to be repaired and restored to its quirky beauty when the park was opened for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games.

Folk Art Park

Folk Art Park aims to honor Southern folk art, in this case with an installation that pays tribute to St. EOM, who created the Pasaquan art site. Credit: http://xtremearttourists1.blogspot.com

On Dec. 3, companies interested in bidding on the project are slated to meet with representatives of Atlanta’s Department of Procurement to discuss the restoration and improvement project. Bids are to be opened Dec. 17.

Folk Art Park was Atlanta’s answer to Park Güell, the fantasyland created by the artist Gaudí in Barcelona. It was in Barcelona that Atlanta’s winning bid for the 1996 Olympic Games was announced by Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee.

Today, the Atlanta park shows the wear of nearly 20 years out in elements, not to mention the effect of wind velocities and vibrations that result from its home on the Piedmont Avenue bridge over I-75 and I-85, the Downtown Connector.

The restoration work is not likely to be complete by next summer, when Atlanta celebrates the 20th anniversary of its Olympic Games. The company selected to do the work has a year to finish it, according to a request for proposals the city issued Nov. 17.

The park is a gateway to Atlanta’s central business district. It also provides visual entertainment to those in nearby high rise buildings.

Park Guell

This cheerful dragon stands guard at the entrance to Park Güell in Barcelona. Credit: Barcelona.de

Regardless of the perspective, the park provides views of whimsical installations of windmills, gourd trees, and forms of animals and humans. Seven totems honor St. EOM, or Eddie Owens Martin, who created the Pasaquan art site in Marion County in the 1950s.

According to the RFP and a statement from Central Atlanta Progress, the restoration project includes the addition of:

  • One wayfinding sign related to the Corporation for Olympic Development in Atlanta, the non-profit company that oversaw streetscape and neighborhood improvements before the sporting event;
  • 10 sign panels for bollards and the Pasaquan installation;
  • 20 devices to restrict skateboarding;
  • Some sort of device to deter birds;
  • 12 floodlight fixtures and 18 spotlight fixtures;
  • 4,323 square feet of fresh paint on the concrete parapet and walls;

    Folk Art Park, windmills

    North Carolina artist Vollis Simpson was dubbed the ‘junkyard poet’ by The New York Times for his artwork of whirligigs and windmills. Credit: http://xtremearttourists1.blogspot.com

  • 225 square feet of anti-graffiti protection coating;

Artwork is to be restored, as well, with new concrete, paint and metal. This effort is to be guided by the “Artwork Assessment Manual,” dated Jan. 13, 2012 and held at Atlanta Downtown Improvement District, an affiliate of Central Atlanta Progress.

Atlanta is overseeing the project to refurbish and improve the park. The current construction cost appears to be $460,000, which is to be funded by the Georgia Department of Transportation and Central Atlanta Progress are providing the funding.

However, the guiding light is an affiliate of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Inc.

The Community Foundation oversees a donor advised fund named Atlanta Public Arts Legacy Fund. APAL’s purpose is to take care of certain public art installations that date to the Atlanta Olympic Games and were part of the streetscape improvement effort overseen by CODA.

APAL applied to GDOT for money to refurbish the park. GDOT awarded $300,000 and required a 20 percent matching grant. CAP provided the match, of $60,000, and provided an additional $100,000, according to a statement from CAP.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

4 replies
  1. dondeestaladiscoteca says:

    The problem with Folk Art Park is not that it’s a bad idea, but that the setting is ugly. If they want to actually make it beautiful, they should add street trees for shade and landscaping around the edges to shield it from the Connector below, and they should remove the ridiculous right turn lanes between Courtland and Ralph McGill in favor of additional park space. Right now, it’s an intersection decoration rather than an actual park.Report

    Reply
  2. Wormser Hats says:

    The denizens of the Pine Street shelter have improved nighttime ambience when adding to the list of now-unlit Atlanta thoroughfares, the defunct street lighting along this section of Piedmont, heading north past the civic center. 

    When Mayor Reed and his public works hack, Richard Mendoza, leave office, would someone remember to turn the lights back on along our streets and reopen sidewalks in the public right-of-way?Report

    Reply

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