By Maria Saporta
Starting July 1, MARTA will set aside 1 percent of its annual capital budget – about $2.5 million a year – for a public art program.
As an example of how the increased investment in art will help transform the city’s landscape, MARTA and its partners unveilled its first installation on Wednesday evening at the King Memorial MARTA Station – a good excuse for a community party.
MARTA is collaborating with WonderRoot, an arts organization aimed at improving the cultural and social landscape of Atlanta. The collaboration is called “En Route” – a French phrase that translates to “On the way.” The King Memorial mural is the first of several that will be placed at MARTA stations.
Other members of the partnership are the TransFormation Alliance and the Fulton County Arts & Culture division.
The lead artist for the mural at King Memorial was well-known Atlanta artist
. The mural shows a figure in flight. On one end, the person appears to dissolve into hundreds and birds. According to a release announcing the mural project, the birds are “visual metaphors for the diversity of the community.” The mural also incldes the words “Up Up and A Way” as a source of inspiration for MARTA riders and passer-bys – connecting to the legacy of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
The event Wednesday evening included the artist – Pecou; Chris Appleton, executive director of WonderRoot; and Keith Parker, MARTA’s general manager and CEO.
Murals also are planned to be installed at the Oakland City and H.E. Holmes MARTA stations. WonderRoot andMARTA have held community meetings to get neighborhood input on the possible designs.
“The finished murals will aim to enhance the lives of neighborhood residents and transit users, and articulate a shared viewpoint through deep dialogue between individuals with a range of perspectives,”according to a press release.
The En Route initiative actually was made possible by a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, participation from Fulton County and additional support from the Georgia Council for the Arts. The Atlanta Regional Commission public arts initiative also was involved.
“The En Route program and partnerships are an exciting opportunity to use public art as a tool to celebrate Parker has said. “The arts are a key component of our long-term vision to make MARTA an attractive mode of transportation.”
The King Memorial mural is just the beginning of this burgeoning partnership. The MARTA board recently voted in favor of the public arts program. That means the public arts initiative will serve as a source of revenues through the annual 1 percent of the agency’s capital improvement program. MARTA also has accepted the responsibility for maintaining the murals.