September 21, 2016

New Developments in Local Public Art

Art Notes

David Lunde prepares to transform a fire hydrant into miniature fire station. Photo by Jessica Magnarella.

PUBLIC ART MASTER PLAN: Urban designer Todd Bressi, who has spent the past year researching Athens through surveys and community input sessions, has completed a preliminary draft of a public art master plan for the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission. The plan is intended to lay a foundation for the implementation of various projects, specifically ones that will beautify the city or help foster a sense of community by offering an opportunity to contribute or connect to others. 

Of the 300-plus surveys received, many residents expressed overwhelming interest in seeing more murals, sculptures, infrastructural works and interactive projects. One idea for incorporating more murals into the fabric of Athens is to lease a downtown wall—thereby eliminating site permissions and sign code concerns—for works that would be rotated seasonally or biannually. The plan also recommends inviting experienced muralists to town to lead technical workshops or serve as mentors.

Bressi suggests the ACAC should develop a strategy for incrementally adding more artist-designed bus shelters to “You, Me & the Bus,” a series launched in 2009 by the Athens Area Arts Council. On a similar note, the plan also recommends consulting with bicycle advocacy groups and developing a series of artist-made bike racks to install near schools, housing areas and recreation centers. 

An idea that would expand on the downtown master plan’s goal of improving pedestrian walkways is an art walk and cultural trail, which would visually map out various sculptures and points of interest located within walking distance of each other. The ACAC is directed to draw from its own local pool of talent by supporting several artists and their projects through grants each year, and collaborating with art institutions or organizations to plan artist lectures and residencies. 

Athenians are encouraged to read over the proposed plan on, and to email with any feedback.

WORLD OF WONDER: The Athens Cultural Affairs Commission has extended the deadline for professional artists and art teams to submit design proposals for a public art project at the World of Wonder Park at Southeast Clarke Park. The SPLOST-funded neighborhood park on the Eastside will undergo renovations next year that include new landscaping, picnic tables and a multi-use trail in addition to the public art project, which will replace the wooden castle-themed play area that has warped over time. The initial call for proposals resulted in only three submissions, none of which met the requirements. 

Ideally, the design will be accessible and interesting to a wide range of ages and abilities. The ACAC is hoping for a three-dimensional installation that is interactive and sensory, but it must also be non-climbing and cannot block parents’ view of children. The materials must be nontoxic and highly durable in order to minimize maintenance, weathering and vandalism. A $32,000 all-inclusive budget has been allocated towards covering design, materials, fabrication, travel, installation, insurance and other artist’s fees.

Final proposals must include a resume, annotated images of previous works, a full description of the public artwork’s concept and an estimated budget. Submissions are due before Sunday, Oct. 2 at 11:59 p.m. through A selection panel will meet mid-October, and the Mayor and Commission will vote on recommended artist(s) in November. For questions, contact ACAC chairman Marc Beechuk at 706-248-1604 or 

FIRE UP THE HYDRANTS: Freshly painted fire hydrants have been popping up near street corners all around downtown over the past few weeks, courtesy of Fire Up the Hydrants, a public art project spearheaded by the Athens-Clarke County Water Conservation Office. Local artists were selected from over 75 submissions to transform 20 hydrants into functional and life-saving works of art. 

Many of the hydrants reflect a sense of place and local pride, such as Sheridan Soileau’s “Athens Rocks” guitar hydrant outside of the Georgia Theatre, Ashley Crain’s “Georgia On My Mind” postcard-inspired hydrant in front of City Hall and Jamie Calkin’s “Sunflowers in Athens” hydrant on the corner of Broad and Lumpkin Streets. Several others were inspired by the natural world, such as Will Eskridge’s bear outside of Creature Comforts and Sarah Cook’s toadstool in front of Gigi’s Cupcakes. 

All hydrants will be fully completed by the end of the month and officially unveiled on Saturday, Oct. 8 during a Fire Up the Hydrants event on College Avenue. For more information, visit

SPREAD LOVE: Broderick Flanigan, who has led multiple community-based mural projects within the past few years, is one of Athens’ strongest and most self-motivated proponents of public art. In addition to running youth art programs through Flanigan’s Portrait Studio, he has guided children through creating a mural honoring civil rights leaders Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. in the East Athens Triangle Plaza, as well as a mural commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hilsman Middle School. In September 2015, he traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand, for a two-week volunteer program with Art Relief International. Come October, the artist will take his talent all the way to Kenya. 

Flanigan plans to travel with the 12-member mission team of Ebenezer Baptist Church West, which formed a partnership with St. Carl Home of the Champions School and Orphanage in Kisii, Kenya, back in 2014. The group takes an annual trip to repair hazardous infrastructure and donate medicine, clothing, books and other items. Flanigan will specifically lend his expertise as a visual artist by leading children through painting a mural inside of one of the school’s buildings. 

Flanigan will host “Imani,” an exhibition of paintings, drawings, sculpture and installation at the Athens Institute for Contemporary Art as a fundraiser for his trip. An opening reception will be held Thursday, Sept. 22 from 6–8 p.m., and the show will remain on view through Saturday, Sept. 24. Donations help cover mural, medical and educational supplies as well as visas, insurance and food. Visit to help.