Conceptual artist and writer Jonathon Keats is introducing the Atlanta River Time project, a new municipal clock for the metro area based on the flow of the Chattahoochee River, Peachtree Creek and other local waterways.

The project aims to change Atlantans’ perspective on time, the natural environment, and the impact of modern human existence on both.

Jonathon Keats, renowned conceptual artist, experimental philosopher and writer, is introducing the Atlanta River Time project (Special/Michael Llewellyn).

“We can overcome dehumanization and environmental devastation by calibrating our lives according to personal observations of seasonal changes in our natural surroundings,” Keats said in a press release.

His solution is to redefine time not just in terms of people’s lives but also based on ecology.

River Time project organizers say Atlanta may be ripe for a shift in thinking about rivers and time.

“Atlanta was built around the railroad rather than the river,” said Keats. “It’s a business-first town that was founded and continues to be driven to make the trains run on time.  Although these days it’s more about UPS trucks, Delta jets and Amazon Prime delivery.” 

Keats delivered the first version of River Time in Anchorage, Alaska in 2020, by creating a digital Alaska River Time clock metered by glacial melt’s impact on regional rivers.

Now, various Atlanta organizations tied to the river and arts are collaborating to bring Keats and his alternative time-reckoning systems to Georgia’s capital city. That includes nonprofit arts group Flux Projects and the South Fork Conservancy, which works to restore the banks of the South Fork of Peachtree Creek, among others.

On Monday, June 14, a roundtable discussion will kick off the multi-year effort. Keats will join Ryan Gravel, the visionary behind the Atlanta Beltline and founder of urban design firm Sixpitch; Jodi Mansbach of Chattahoochee NOW; and Jennifer Bauer-Lyons of Serenbe Institute for Art, Culture & the Environment.

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Chad Radford

Chad Radford is the editor of Rough Draft and an Atlanta-based music writer, editor, and nature lover.