Art Gone Wild

Public artworks spend the summer at Freedom Park

This past February, Christo and Jeanne-Claude's $20 million The Gates project in New York City's Central Park showed the enormous potential of public art, drawing 1.5 million tourists and generating an estimated $254 million in economic revenue.

Atlanta's Art in Freedom Park is a far humbler project, with a budget of only $55,000. But the ambitious summer-long exhibition could be a great road test of local receptivity to public art. Art in Freedom Park debuts with opening day festivities on May 1 (noon-9 p.m.) and runs through September.

Spearheaded by artist Evan Levy and presented by the Freedom Park Conservancy, the event features performance, sculpture, interactive projects, photography and installations. Hopefully, it will transform the 210-acre park into an evolving public art site. If Art in Freedom Park is a success, it will pave the way for future exhibitions.

Art in Freedom Park covers a wide spectrum, ranging from a regular Sunday afternoon kite-flying event to a sunset screening of films by Neil Fried on May 1. It's also diverse in its mix of 30 artists, ranging from relative newcomers to the founder of Georgia State University's sculpture department, George Beasley, whose "Farm" piece is a working farm that offers political commentary on genetically modified Frankenfood and the plight of small Georgia farms.

Some intriguing projects include:

"f.o.r.d.: found on road dead" by Meshakai Wolf

Wolf's project focuses on the perils of being a wild thing in a car-centric, development-addicted city. In the past, Wolf created shockingly graphic images of opossums, squirrels and other domestic critters who end up as road kill. For Art in Freedom Park, Wolf created replicas of animal-crossing road signs positioned at roadways throughout the park and painted with urban varmints to alert motorists to the wildlife in their midst.

"Storyscape" by David Jimison, John Goetzinger and Karyn Y. Lu

Three Georgia Tech graduate students created one of the most conceptually rich projects slated for Art in Freedom Park. The "Storyscape" project is an interactive work that comments on how parks normally associated with peaceful, Thoreau-style contemplation have become infected by the technological afflictions of modern life. Turning that concept on its ear, the Tech trio found a way for park-goers to use cell phones to connect rather than distance themselves from their fellow urbanites.

At 15 locations throughout the park, cell phone users can call a "Storyscape" number with a location tag and hear audio stories about the location left by other park-goers or leave their own stories.

The Atlanta Naked People with Steve and Ronnog Seaberg

"Some people get money to do their art," jokes Steve Seaberg, age 74. "And some artists have to do their art and run like hell." Seaberg and his wife Ronnog have performed their quirky combinations of poetry reading, acrobatics and nudity around the world and in a Wim Wenders documentary. The Atlanta Naked People have performed before in Freedom Park and return for what Seaberg describes as "a mixture of dance, acrobatics, music, speech and static sculpture" in July. The democratic group also encourages newcomers, who can contact Seaberg at sseaberg@bellsouth.net.

"Hammocks for the Homeless" by Linda Stern

With its manic joggers and rollerbladers, Freedom Park often seems like the proverbial urban park that's more about time-managed recreation than reflection. Stern aims to change all that by inspiring her audience to slow down and think. When Stern surveyed Freedom Park she, noticed that "the ones who tend to linger

and stay are the homeless." Aiming to spark thought about the way people use the park, Stern will incorporate neon-orange construction barrier fabric and PVC pipe in an installation of seven hammocks at the corner of Moreland and North avenues. The hammocks, which comment on both homelessness and development themes, also allow people to do what art has always done: Adopt a new perspective. In this instance, that perspective is gained by hopping into a hammock and looking up at the sky.

"Happy Accident" by Daniel Upton, Rick Kemp and Lydia Walls

"Atlanta and cars go hand in hand," says Upton of the cartoon-style sculpture featuring a car and driver crashing into a tree. The piece is a full-size replica of a 1967 Impala made from inflated fabric and treated with Scotchgard to withstand two weeks of Atlanta weather. Upton calls this collaborative sculpture "a combination of sitcom/cartoon happiness faced with the full-sized reality of death."


For more information about Art in Freedom Park visit www.artinfreedompark.org.??

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