It’s a fact: Atlanta is a more artful city than it used to be.
And many of the city’s most celebrated works can be gawked at for free, in disparate locations from Adair Park to Decatur and the Buckhead Triangle.
Downtown is a hotbed of important sculptures, and Wylie Street is a mecca of amazing murals (more on that later in Curbed’s inaugural Play Week), but here we’re focusing on six places—both in general and very specific—that Atlantans and visitors alike might not typically associate with great public art.
Lace up some comfy walking shoes, grab a cold supply of hydrating liquids, and prepare to be inspired:
“Atlanta’s Art Park”
Where else to begin but a rolling chain of greens spaces collectively dubbed “Atlanta’s Art Park.”
Freedom Park in recent years has sprung up as a destination for public art enthusiasts, thanks to the efforts of groups like FLUX and the Freedom Park Conservancy.
One permanent highlight is the sculpture Tree of Life & Kan by Mexican contemporary artist Yvonne Domenge, dedicated in 2013 where North Avenue meets Oakdale Road.
Another can’t-miss installation along the park’s Freedom PATH Trail is One Woman Rising, commissioned in 2013 by The Chelko Foundation, by Atlanta artist Phil Proctor and a team of world-renowned body-painters.
According to the Freedom Park Conservancy, the whimsical but powerful statue honors participants in Eve Ensler’s first global push to end violence against women and girls, and it’s become an “internationally recognized symbol of women’s empowerment.”
And who could forget the departed installations SEAT by E/B Office (2012) and Charlie Brouwer’s Rise Up Atlanta (2011)?
The High Museum
At the High Museum of Art, important pieces aren’t limited to the world-renowned collections inside.
Designed by Richard Meier with additions by Renzo Piano, the museum itself is art expressed in architecture, and the grounds are dotted with public-accessible pieces of note.
Overlooking Peachtree Street, a Rodin sculpture called The Shade was a gift to the city by the French government to honor 106 Atlanta arts patrons who died in a plane crash near Paris in 1962—the deadliest aviation accident in history at the time. Victims included many prominent members of Atlanta’s arts community.
Roy Lichtenstein’s longstanding (and somewhat trippy) House III, made of painted and fabricated aluminum, harkens the artist’s early interior paintings and plays with perspective.
Also of note: the museum often displays whimsical collections of sculptures (meant for climbing or various other interactions) that delight the kiddos.
Long a bastion of impressive art pieces large and small, new and ancient, MARTA in 2017 launched an “Artbound” program that’s succeeding in aesthetically enhancing stations by way of integrated art throughout the rail system.
Intricate restoration projects lent new life to works across the city, but the most notable (and uplifting) changes are large-scale murals on the exteriors of several stations by acclaimed local painter Fahamu Pecou.
Pecou’s latest—The People Could Fly, based on a traditional folktale of hope—was completed this year at the Ashby Station, facing Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard.
Atlanta Beltline Westside Trail
The addition of the Beltline’s western flank last year officially added four miles of gallery space to the organization’s burgeoning art initiative, and the main trail and its offshoots are now dotted with captivating works (minus the crowds, usually).
Mural highlights include 2017’s Singer by Suzy Schultz, which is part of a series “exploring emotion as expressed through song,” per the Beltline.
Also, near the Lee + White redevelopment, find Sanithna Phansavanh’s Moksha, which “revels in the artistic beautification occurring on the Beltline, and, embracing the many interplays and contrasts of colors and lines, aims to extend many of the existing aesthetic qualities.” It’s also capable of bewildering the author’s daughters.
Around central Buckhead
In May 2017, the late John Portman, a giant of Atlanta architecture and noted sculptor, was on hand for the dedication of his latest work, Aspiration, at the park named for his longtime pal, businessman Charlie Loudermilk.
The 12-foot abstract piece joins of roster of well-known if not iconic public works around the Buckhead Village. These include the relocated Storyteller (now at the Buckhead Branch Library) and The Great Fish, a steel structure standing 65 feet completed for $500,000 back in 1995.
Atlanta Beltline Eastside Trail
Last but certainly not least is Atlanta’s buzziest perennial art display, seen by millions over the past few years.
What started with 40 works in the fall of 2010—Art on the Atlanta Beltline—has blossomed into the South’s largest temporary outdoor exhibition. Last year, the linear gallery counted more than 100 pieces.
One noteworthy (but unfortunately temporary) Eastside Trail installment in recent years was William Massey’s Tony Comes Home, composed entirely of trash and found items beneath the Freedom Parkway overpass in Old Fourth Ward. The spot has been prime real estate for other large-scale, thought-provoking works.
This year’s art crop, as always, will be kickstarted with the magical Lantern Parade in September.
Meanwhile, through December, check out the photo exhibition Atlanta and the Civil Rights Movement, 1944-1968, an unflinching collection curated by historian and author Karcheik Sims-Alvarado, Ph.D.