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Downtown Atlanta’s Folk Art Park will be reborn this week

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Now restored and enhanced, GDOT’s first public art installation includes works by Howard Finster, Eddie Owens Martin

The downtown Atlanta folk art installations in the more bedraggled days of 2011.
Eastern downtown’s folk art installations in the more bedraggled days of 2011. Seen here is “Homage to St. EOM’s Pasaquan.”
Photos: PackUpTheCar

In the lead-up to Atlanta’s 1996 Centennial Olympic Games, Folk Art Park opened on the eastern flank of downtown as a fitting homage to a deeply rooted Southern artistic tradition.

Along Piedmont Avenue, above the inartistic Downtown Connector, the installations claimed lifeless concrete islands in a time before ubiquitous public art was a borderline urban necessity.

But time, the Georgia sun, and certainly car fumes took a toll on the first permanent outdoor tribute to folk art, which includes works by Howard Finster and Eddie Owens Martin of Pasaquan fame, among others.

Come Thursday morning, however, a rejuvenated version of the park will be unveiled, following restoration and enhancement efforts that officials are calling extensive.

The weathered collection has been revived thanks to $300,000 from the Georgia Department of Transportation (the park was the agency’s first stab at public art) and $100,000 from the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District.

“Star Wheel with Guitar Girls” windmill by James Harold Jennings in 2011.

The upgrades are meant to preserve and highlight the artwork and create a more pleasant pedestrian experience for years to come.

Per Central Atlanta Progress, they include:

  • The restoration of artwork with new paint, concrete, and metal to ensure the longevity and quality repair of the sculptures;
  • additional lighting on existing light poles to enhance visibility of artwork and public safety;
  • new fencing, anti-skateboarding devices, and bird deterrents, all meant to protect the sculptures, officials said;
  • the enhancement of existing landscaped areas;
  • and the addition of interpretive signage about the art.

Hopefully the enhancements won’t be for naught if that Connector-capping parks vision called “The Stitch” ever materializes.

This steel-made installment by R.A. Miller, as seen in 2011, is titled “Rolling Hills of Georgia.”