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.
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.