By Cathi Arora

The new Abernathy Park will feature a playground with an artistic flair.

Building on the success of its Arts in the Open program, Arts Sandy Springs has teamed up with the Sandy Springs Conservancy to develop the Playable Art Grove, which will offer a sculpture garden with children in mind.

“Our goal is to provide a desirable amenity to the city of Sandy Springs, to promote the concept of art to public spaces, and to expose children to fine arts through interactive play,” said Cheri Morris, president-elect of Arts Sandy Springs and founding member of the Sandy Springs Conservancy.

“This will be an iconic feature for our city and the Atlanta area,” Morris said. “This is not just a playground. It’s fine art that inspires play.”

Currently in the early stages, this project will be funded through a $300,000 grant from Northside Hospital. The sculptures will be selected through a design competition commissioned by a steering committee with members from both organizations.

According to Morris, they hope to issue a Call for Entries this May and expect over 100 entries from around the world. The selection and jury process will involve legal, child safety and art conservation experts. Installation, which may include up to 12 pieces, is projected for 2012.

During a recent presentation to the Sandy Springs City Council, Morris asked the council to agree to accept, install and maintain this gift. Mayor Eva Galambos said they would approve the project in accordance with the city’s gift policy. The item is expected to be up for a vote at the council’s next meeting.

Following the presentation, which included photos of similar projects worldwide, Mayor Galambos claimed “this sounds too good to be true.”

“You are giving this park a destination,” Dist. 3 Councilman Chip Collins said. “What really makes it great is that there is something special to see.”

Working closely with the City Parks and Recreation Department, Morris said proponents selected site on the north end of the park because the area is flat, set back from the road and shaded. It takes in about 16,000 square feet of parkland.

Work on the Abernathy Park is now under way. Once complete, the 20-acre linear park along the north and south sides of Abernathy Road between Roswell and Johnson Ferry roads will include lighted walking trails, a gazebo, fountains and picnic areas.

The Playable Art Grove Steering Committee plans to work with the city and Northside Hospital on a public information program to provide ongoing communication with interested civic constituencies including the Abernathy Greenway Committee, public and private schools and the public at large.