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Art on the Beltline program draws criticism, praise for temporality

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Article: The annual art installations along the Beltline are contentious, but maybe they don’t need to be

The Beltline is far more than a glorified sidewalk, with adjacent parks, space for future transit, and even some pretty spectacular art thanks to the Art on the Atlanta Beltline program.

For seven years, the program has brought art to sites along the trail, though the works are (almost) always temporary, leaving many artists and even Beltline supporters to question the merits of the program. In fact, many artists are turned off by the program’s temporal nature, and even critical of its mission. After all, throw-away art isn’t very sustainable, to say the least.

But a new piece in BURNAWAY this week explores the program and its mission in depth; while many cast a critical eye toward art installations erected and then dismantled, the article espouses the variable nature of the art, and the opportunity it brings to a range of artists.

With limited funding each year, the program manages to attract a range of artists, adding variety to the path with each new season. Some installments have literally fallen apart or become immediate health hazards — but that’s just a means of letting artists learn from mistakes and grow, the author opines.

The piece muses:

“Having more artwork, even if it’s lower quality, that changes annually is more engaging to the average person than a few keynote pieces would be.”

After all, most Beltline users come back week after week, year after year. Doesn’t an ever-changing gallery along the corridor mean more interest in the long run?

Here’s a gallery of installations — some permanent, most not — captured for a Visual Journeys photo essay in 2015: