The Triumphant Return of the Sabine Woman
By Ginny Kennedy, Midtown Alliance Director of Urban Design
There is no one with a more unique perspective on Midtown’s evolution along the Peachtree corridor than the Sabine Woman. Don’t know her? Let me introduce you. Originally commissioned in 1968 by Jim Cushman to stand in front of his new mixed-use development at 100 Colony Square, the Sabine Woman is a powerful presence. Wrought of rugged Cor-ten steel by sculptor and gallery owner Dorothy Berge (1923-2009), she stands 30-feet tall, confident, commanding, and perhaps a little defiant.
For five decades, the Sabine Woman watched as Midtown transformed from the center of the counterculture movement into the Heart of the Arts, a premier location for culture, innovation, education, and business. Throughout that time, she amassed devoted fans among local art enthusiasts but remained elusive due to her peripatetic lifestyle. She’s moved around a bit, not by choice really, but due to the whims of various property owners over the years. Her last stand was at the corner of Peachtree and 14th Street from 2014 until 2019. Ultimately, the renovation and expansion of Colony Square encroached into the space for the sculpture and she was dismantled and placed in storage.
Here’s where serendipity steps in. The search for a new home for the Sabine Woman coincided with Midtown Alliance’s planned improvements to Arts District Plaza. Located on the four corners of the intersection of Peachtree and 15th Street, a gateway that leads to the Woodruff Arts Center and Museum of Design Atlanta, the plaza was constructed in 2008 and has been the main focal point of Midtown’s cultural and creative epicenter ever since. It’s a welcome spot for lunch, ping pong, temporary art installations or the occasional performance by local musicians and dancers. It’s also in need of a refresh.
Construction is scheduled to begin in March on updates to the Southeast and Southwest corners of Arts District Plaza. The Southwest corner will become the permanent home for the Sabine Woman, generously donated to Midtown Alliance by North America Properties last year. Accented by new lighting, seating, and landscaping, the Southwest corner will welcome new fans of this iconic sculpture and provide expanded space for people to gather, meet a friend, or simply enjoy people-watching at one of Midtown’s busiest intersections. Cousins Properties is an important partner since a portion of the new seating and landscaping is on their property and will dovetail with future renovations planned in front of the 1200 Peachtree office building. We are grateful for their partnership, which allows us to carve out places for people in a dense urban district where land is expensive and scarce.
Across the street, improvements to the Southeast corner of Arts District Plaza will enhance its parklike setting and provide a tranquil atmosphere with communal tables for outdoor workspace and flexibility for seating and other activities. Colony Square’s new Building 500 will provide a dramatic backdrop to the Southeast corner and we look forward to co-sponsoring programs with NAP to activate this space throughout the year.
Improvements to Arts District Plaza and the triumphant return of the Sabine Woman to Peachtree Street not only reinforce Midtown’s identity as the Heart of the Arts, they also signal our ongoing commitment to enhancing the public realm and the important role that public-private partnerships play in implementation. Our community has spoken up about the need for more parks and plazas, and creating these shared spaces is an important part of our 2021 work plan. As one of Atlanta’s most walkable intown neighborhoods, having a network of open spaces anchored by art is essential to the quality of life we crave.