Charlie Loudermilk Park will be the home to a new sculpture in the coming weeks. The iconic sculpture that was previously there also has a new home and a new owner, a move its creator isn’t thrilled about.
Darion Dunn, director of capital improvements and planning for the Buckhead Community Improvement District, said he hopes to have the 12-foot-tall steel and water sculpture by architect and developer John Portman installed before the Atlanta Jazz Festival event there on April 22.
“The Storyteller,” an iconic sculpture in Buckhead that was removed from the park during a CID renovation, is now installed outside of the Buckhead Library at the recommendation of Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition, which commissioned and previously owned the sculpture. The coalition has now deeded it to the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System.
Massell said with the additions of the Portman sculpture and a statue of Charlie Loudermilk, designers of the park probably thought there wouldn’t be enough room in the small park for all three sculptures.
He also entertained the idea that it was removed because Charlie Loudermilk, who the park is now named after, did not like the sculpture. Although he was involved in the selection process and went to Alabama with Massell and others to meet the sculptor, Massell said Loudermilk later decided he didn’t like it and that may be part of the reason it wasn’t part of the park’s renovation plans.
“It just didn’t fit the scheme of the park and it made much more sense at the library being a sculpture of a storyteller,” said Robin Loudermilk, the son of the businessmen and Aaron’s Inc. founder for whom the park is named and one of the people spearheading the park’s renovation.
The turtles didn’t make it to the library, however, as three of them were given as donor gifts by Robin Loudermilk.
When the turtles were removed to be given away in 2010, the Buckhead Coalition wasn’t consulted. This led some coalition officials to believe the turtles had been stolen. The coalition offered a reward of $2,000 for information leading to an arrest and $500 for each returned undamaged turtle. When the sculpture was commissioned in 1998, it cost $200,000.
Massell said they weren’t told about the plan to give away three of the turtles and that “there wasn’t much they could do” after they were given away. “They were gone,” he said.
The sculpture originally had six turtles and a rabbit, but it’s not clear what happened to the other animals as the only ones that remain are the three dogs. Robin Loudermilk said he doesn’t have any information on what happened to them.
The artist who created the sculpture, Frank Fleming, said the sculpture doesn’t convey the storytelling scene without the animals being in a circle and that he doesn’t understand why Loudermilk thought he had a right to remove the animals.
“It looks like the dogs are trying to catch the buck,” he said.
The removal of the turtles makes it a completely different sculpture, Fleming said.
“It’s like taking someone and cutting both their arms off,” he said.
When he was commissioned by the coalition to create “The Storyteller,” Fleming said, he was not given many stipulations. It had to feature a buck, but he was able to create what kind of sculpture he wanted. Fleming decided to base it on a similar sculpture he did for downtown Birmingham, Ala., that features a ram-headed person instead of a buck.