Atlanta architect and artist John Portman designed a statue for Loudermilk Park in Buckhead
Atlanta architect and artist John Portman designed a statue for Loudermilk Park in Buckhead

A monumental steel-and-water sculpture by Atlanta architect and artist John Portman is coming to Charlie Loudermilk Park, likely this year.

Titled “Aspiration,” the work will double as a major piece of public art in the heart of Buckhead and as a tribute to Portman’s friend.

“Charlie Loudermilk and I share more than a love for the city of Atlanta; we share a deep friendship and mutual respect for one another,” Portman said in a written statement, referring to the Buckhead business leader for whom the park is named.

“I am honored to have been asked to create a sculpture for his park. I put my heart into creating something of meaning for him and also in recognition of the significance of Buckhead in our urban fabric.”

Meanwhile, another sculpture that long stood in the park is heading to a new home, according to the Buckhead Community Improvement District. “The Storyteller,” depicting a buck-headed man speaking to a group of animals, will be installed outside the Buckhead Branch Library, according to CID Executive Director Jim Durrett.

The sculpture swap is among many changes and improvements the CID has overseen at the park, located at the fork of Peachtree and Roswell roads. Formerly called Triangle Park, it was renamed in 2008 for Loudermilk, the founder of the Buckhead-based Aaron’s rent-to-own empire and a renowned philanthropist. A life-size statue of Loudermilk was added to the park in 2011.

Commissioned in 1998 by the Buckhead Coalition, “The Storyteller” vanished from public view during a CID-led, $2.5 million park renovation that wrapped up last year.

Durrett said the sculpture is in storage and headed for the library at 269 Buckhead Ave., about a block from Loudermilk Park. The CID is working with the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, which is “going through their approval process now,” he said. The library and the city of Atlanta did not have comment.

Meanwhile, Portman’s sculpture is also in a city approval process. “Hopefully, this year we will end with the sculpture in the park,” Durrett told the CID board at its March meeting.

“We designed the park to accommodate a future sculpture, and Mr. Loudermilk suggested Portman,” Durrett said in an email, adding that the sculpture will go at the park’s southern tip. He told the CID board that the cost, likely in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, will be split equally between the CID and Loudermilk.

Portman is an architect-developer known for such landmarks as the Peachtree Center hotel and office tower complex in Downtown Atlanta. He is also a respected artist who was featured in a High Museum show several years ago and who often creates sculptures for his own buildings.

A design and artist’s statement for Loudermilk Park provided by Portman show a 12-foot-tall abstract sculpture of interlocking stainless steel pieces. It will be mounted on a circular pedestal of stainless steel and black granite that serves as a bench and also contains water to reflect the artwork.

The title “Aspiration” and the work itself are tributes to Buckhead’s past and future success, and the work, the statement says.

“The intertwining forms that make up the sculpture pay homage to the energy of the [Loudermilk Park] site and denote the evolving development of Buckhead, which can best be described as activity in all directions,” Portman’s statement says. “The sculpture is intended to mark the growing significance of Buckhead as a community in its own right.”

The sculpture, which currently exists only as a scale model, will be fabricated by Polich Tallix Fine Arts Foundry in New York State. Polich Tallix also created the Oscar statuettes for this year’s Academy Awards, according to press releases.

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.