Sculpture-studded makeover of BeltLine’s Reynoldstown performance space aims for summer construction
By John Ruch
The remake of an outdoor performance space along the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail is moving toward final design and construction in late summer.
The Reynoldstown Community Space is a small lawn along the trail between Memorial Drive and Fulton Terrace. Progress on the makeover, which includes wiring it for plug-in performances and framing it with dune-like concrete sculptures, was presented at an April 5 virtual meeting by Atlanta BeltLine Inc. (ABI), the organization that builds and operates the park, trail and transit loop.
The Community Space sits at the rear of the Muchacho restaurant at 904 Memorial. According to Miranda Kyle, ABI’s arts and culture program manager, the use of the space for art and performance predates the BeltLine. She said it was once used for a “Burning Man-style” event with “sculptures that were treated like effigies.” BeltLine programming has included a wide array of music, dance and other performances and displays.
Besides wiring the site for electricity and sound, the makeover centered on creating some type of large-scale, permanent artwork. That has been in development by the Boston-based Make/Do Studio since mid-2020.
Their initial idea was for a pair of sinuous sculptures they described as ribbon-shaped set on either side of the trail, giving the illusion of burrowing beneath it and emerging on the other side. That has evolved into a third such sculpture in the performance area, giving an appearance something like the humps of a mythical sea serpent sticking out of the water.
The sculptures would have elaborate surface curves, something like sand dunes, and be composed of slices of concrete painted yellow — considered the Reynoldstown color, the designers said — on one side. The design would create an illusion of motion and changing surfaces as one walked past them.
The design was narrowed down in an on-site event last month where designers stacked white boxes to give members of the public an idea of the scale, and where people could model Play-Doh on a map to suggest sculpture siting.
The sculptures are not intended as seating per se and don’t look particularly comfortable, but, the designers said, they will be built to allow such contact and will meet playground safety standards.
“We are planning on people interacting physically with the sculpture, leaning on it, using it as a bench,” said Make/Do’s Braxton Tanner.
One person in the lightly attended virtual meeting said more seating is needed there and everywhere on the BeltLine. ABI spokesperson Jenny Odom later said benches are a part of all of the organization’s plans.
Another question was whether the trail would be closed during performances, as it appears audiences might stand there. Kyle said the idea is “small and intimate” performances and noted the area has a natural barrier in the form of a plant-covered stormwater ditch along the trail. There would be public notice of anything that closed the trail, she said.
Another unknown is the alignment of the light-rail transit element of the BeltLine in that area and whether it would affect the space. Odom said no alignment has been chosen for that segment yet. The transit does not have to run directly along the trail and in many places around the city likely will not. “Every element of the space will be taken into consideration regarding transit,” Odom said.
The designers are now finishing their plan so it can enter the engineering phase. “We will be going back out to [the] community once the design is final and to give an update on the construction timeline,” Odom said.
For the full presentation from the meeting, see the ABI website.