Kris Pilcher curates ‘Well Wishes’ for Atlanta

‘Something the average person feels they don’t have is a voice that can be heard above all of the bureaucracy and political rhetoric of city officials and leaders.’


  • Courtesy Kris Pilcher
  • ATLANTA, I LOVE YOU: Residents wrote their hopes for the city on 3.5 x 2 business cards, and scrap paper.

In the fall of 2014, local artist Kris Pilcher turned a city dumpster into a wishing well. As part of Elevate, the public art celebration produced by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA), Pilcher and other artists were commissioned to transform the city’s steel waste containers into installations spread out around Downtown and the Goat Farm.

Pilcher’s dumpster (“D_03”) was the artist’s take on Elevate’s theme of “Social City,” encouraging more face-to-face interaction between the folks who call Atlanta home. Titled Well Wishes for the Future of an Ever-Growing Metropolis, the exhibition invited visitors to share their hopes and dreams for the city by filling out a card that posed the question: “This is your Atlanta. What is your wish?” Pilcher was able to collect 843 messages in seven days, with residents scribbling their notes on business cards and scrap paper.

A Grady Baby, and South Downtown resident, Pilcher is a self-described “conversationalist,” and wanted to use Well Wishes as an opportunity to give locals a chance to join in on the dialogue about what needs to change in Atlanta for the better. “Something the average person feels they don’t have is a voice that can be heard above all of the bureaucracy and political rhetoric of city officials and leaders,” he says.

That communal voice ranges in subject matter, from LGBTQ rights (“Queers can get married in ATL and all of GA.”) to questioning government priorities (“I wish Atlanta would tackle its homelessness issues and focus on its residents instead of tourism.”) New Year’s resolutions have come and gone, but Pilcher spoke to Creative Loafing about how Well Wishes came together, holding the city accountable, and why every resident has a sense of hope.

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  • Courtesy Kris Pilcher

Where did the concept for this come from? What was your inspiration?
This project was inspired by the city itself. I’m a huge conversationalist, and I spend an inordinate amount of time on the streets, meeting people, and trying to get that brief moment of human connection before we split paths at the next block. One thing I have noticed, from the literally thousands of people I’ve had encounters with, is that everyone has a plan, an idea, or just an observation about how to strengthen and improve our community. ... Sure, you can check a box on a ballot in a voting booth, but there is something magical and powerful about writing down your wishes and dreams and casting them into the unknown. I wanted to give anyone on the street a voice and a chance to visualize their dreams.

What’s your hope/dream for the future of the city?
I was born at the illustrious and infamous Grady Hospital, and I currently live and work in south Downtown. I like to joke that it has taken me 33 years to make it four blocks. My hope for the city is that one day we can actually BE the phoenix, finally rise out of the ashes and transform into the mythical entity that we are destined to become. I don’t mean gentrification, another tourist attraction, or a new mixed-use development. I want to see the City of Atlanta become as forward thinking and progressive as the vast majority of our citizens. I want to see policies in place that encourage sustainability, economic, gender and racial equality, smart development, and cultural growth. Atlanta could be Atlantis, a shining beacon of hope. That, and free WIFI.

Did you find there was a common theme in the 843 responses?
The common theme throughout all of the wishes is hope. Even the saddest and most desperate of wishes had an underlying glimmer of hope. Hope for public transportation, a new job, the health of a loved one. I expected there to be more wishes for a million dollars, or a new car, but the overwhelming majority were selfless wishes. World peace was the most wished for, followed by a solution to our homeless problems, and public transportation.


  • Courtesy Kris Pilcher

What’s there to love/hate about ATL?
There is so much to love about our city. We’re in the middle of a forest with an abundant amount of green space, we have amazing arts organizations, grassroots social movements that are really creating change, and a citizenry that is for the most part passionate about our community and what it can become. There are opportunities here for anyone that wants to reach out and take them. Hate? Atlanta is too busy to hate. That’s our motto, right?