This past weekend the Atlanta BeltLine welcomed the return of the BeltLine Lantern Parade to the Westside Trail. Led by Atlanta parade aficionado and master of ceremonies Chantelle Rytter, the parade is a beloved tradition that lights up the night with whimsical and otherworldly lanterns. And for the staff at Art on the Atlanta BeltLine (AoAB), this wild party of lights is only just the beginning of good things to come. I spoke with Miranda Kyle, Program Manager of AoAB, about her perspectives on public art and what it means for Atlanta.
“For as long as people have congregated and assembled themselves in civilizations they have marked their place in time through art and through creativity,” said Kyle. “Humans have always had a deep desire to be remembered, to be known, to be seen, and to mark their place in time. We are living in an incredible time right now and public art is more important than ever to the conversation around who we are and what our vision is for our community, how we share space together, how to collectively celebrate, mourn, or process.”
Ever since the BeltLine opened to pedestrians in 2009 art has been at the heart of the experience. Kyle describes public art as a conversation, and for Atlantans and visitors who frequent the BeltLine it offers opportunities for reflection, engagement, and of course, photo ops. “Art on the Atlanta BeltLine was always seen as an access point to the bigger BeltLine project because before there was sidewalk and economic development and housing – when it was just kudzu, broken glass, and train lines – there was art. In the spirit of that original invitation, art on the BeltLine continues to extend its hand to the Greater Atlanta and regional publics. Not just an invitation to understand but to be a part of what it means to rethink how we share public space and how we navigate our cities.”
This year’s Art on the Atlanta Beltline feels especially needed as our communities emerge from three years of the restrictions, loss, and fear caused by the Covid pandemic. “Art on the Atlanta BeltLine became such a balm for people as we all collectively survived the pandemic together, because it was a safe place where people could get physical, mental, and emotional respite,” Kyle continued. “For me public art is the conversation we have with ourselves and our communities. It is an essential function of the human condition, because even if I wasn’t curating art on the BeltLine people would be creating artwork on the BeltLine. It’s just a function of us existing collectively together in space. With or without the Art on the Atlanta BeltLine project there would be art there; we have just been able to help channel, nourish, and support it.”
This year’s Art on the Atlanta BeltLine programming includes performances, murals, sculptures, events, and more. The 2023-2024 AoAB exhibition will offer programming that joins in the national celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip hop and its influence on the city through style writing and graffiti art.
Here’s a little roundup of the art you can expect to see on Atlanta’s most iconic 22-mile walk this year.
- Liquid Sky’s Summer Time Beach Party will take place at the North Avenue Bridge at 7:15 p.m. on Sat., May 27.
- On Sun., May 28 Burning Bones Physical Theater will present “Everything was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt” under English Avenue from 7-8 p.m.
- BeltLine After Dark, an event referred to as a “funk-filled journey through the pulsating rhythms of the African Diaspora,” will bring artists including Liquid Sky, Novoa Dances, M3, Assane Kouyate and Mausiki Scales & the Common Ground Collective to the Westside Park for No Tables, No Chairs parade and concert. Now in its ninth year, this event will take place on Fri., June 2 and Sat., June 3.
- The BeltLine Spaces sculpture series will feature works by Mark Chew, Mary Stuard Hall, and Gabi Madrid.
- The BeltLine Flow performance series will include percussive and multi-media artist Jeremy Muller, performance by the Burning Bones Physical Theater, and poetry from “The Beltline Chronicles” by Robert F. Barsky which will be performed by artist Ismael ibn Conner and Marsha Barsky.
- So So Def Walls Celebration Day & ATL JAM returns November 2 through 5 this year. This celebration of style writing will bring together artists and highlight the So So Def Walls along the Southside Trail under the Downtown Connector.
- Also keep your eyes peeled for new works produced by Jeff Edwards Lisette Correa, Brandon Sadler, Tiny Doors ATL, Megan Mosholder, and the Asian American Advocacy Fund.
Kyle discussed public art in the city and how it compares to other similar pedestrian corridor art concepts elsewhere, like The High Line in New York City. While there are certainly many similarities – abandoned rail tracks converted to pedestrian-friendly paths that offer natural surrounds and opportunities for public art in urban settings – Kyle is quick to assure me that what we have here is truly special.
She also acknowledged just how important it is to continue supporting free-for-all art spaces such as the Krog Street Tunnel just across from the BeltLine’s Eastside Trail. For Kyle, those unsolicited artistic outlets are necessary to support public art in the city just as much as curated public art projects. Luckily for us, Atlanta is home to a vibrant community of artists from all walks of life, and increasingly we are seeing folks from elsewhere take notice thanks to larger projects such as AoAB.
“Atlanta knows who it is,” said Kyle with conviction. “The heart and soul of Atlanta is the culture and the people who have lived here and made this place incredible. I really want Art on the Atlanta BeltLine to reflect that heart and soul that is Atlanta and its historic identity, its current identity, and its future without any pretense of trying to be any city that it is not.”
“Atlanta is magic all by itself.”