Rockspinner public artwork to depart Midtown, successor to be in place in May

By David Pendered

Midtown Alliance is replacing the Rockspinner art installation, located at the northeast corner of the intersection of 10th and Peachtree streets. Monday is the deadline for proposals from artists for another public artwork that is to be placed at the site.

Rockspinner, artwork

Rockspinner, the public art installation in Midtown, is to be removed this Spring and replaced by another interactive artwork. Credit:

The timetable is aggressive. Proposals are to be reviewed this week. Next week, interviews of up to three semifinalists are to be conducted. A winner is to be selected Jan. 23 and the artwork is to be installed in May, according to the request for proposals.

Midtown Alliance noted that the actual timeframe for installation depends on issues including whether the piece will be created for the site or transferred from another location.

The budget is $50,000 for all costs associated with creating and installing the artwork. It is to remain on display for up to three years, according to the RFP.

Rockspinner is being removed because the lease is soon to expire. Atlanta artist Zachary Coffin owns the piece and it may be headed for display in Reno, NV., following is removal this Spring, according to a report by Midtown Alliance.

Midtown Alliance is seeking to replace Rockspinner with another interactive artwork, according to the RFP. Specifically:

  • “Midtown Alliance is particularly interested in three-dimensional artwork that is interactive for pedestrians, providing an open invitation for spectators to become part of the experience. Additionally, innovative uses (or re-uses) of materials and new technologies are encouraged.
  • “The piece must be durable and suitable for outdoors with the ability to withstand the elements of the local climate as well as interaction with the general public (no sharp edges or elements which might present a possible danger to the public).”
Rockspinner, location

Midtown Alliance is seeking an artwork to place at the northeast corner of the intersection of 10th and Peachtree streets. Credit:

The interactive aspect of Rockspinner contributed to its warm reception in Atlanta.

This aspect also contributed to its relevance at Burning Man, where it was displayed in 2001. Burning Man is the event that draws tens of thousands to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to celebrate, in part, “art that should not exist,” according to Jennifer Raiser, author of Burning Man: Art on Fire.

In the case of Rockspinner, what shouldn’t exist is the ability of a person to compel a large rock to spin. As Becky Neil wrote in 2015 in a research paper for a graduate class at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development:

  • “Coffin applies engineering and physical principles to enable the minute force of a human to move an immovable object. In other words, his works make the impossible, possible. In this mind-boggling accomplishment, the audience realizes that perhaps their world is not as limited or fixed as other people tell them. In shifting the rock, the audience enacts a paradigm shift of their individual agency.”

Neil’s paper cites the quote by Raiser about art that shouldn’t exist.

Here’s how Coffin described his outlook in a story posted on The Burning Man Journal.

  • “You see a huge boulder. Ever since you were a little kid, you were never able to move that boulder. I can make it possible for you to move that boulder and through that process you can begin to understand what’s possible through engineering and through technology.” He stopped and thought a moment then added, “on a visceral level.”


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.

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