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Thoughts on BeltLine Art

July 7, 2010

We all know that I don’t like “art”. At this point, I’m not much of a fan of what the BeltLine has turned into. Still, I was disappointed when I read in the AJC that vandals had wrecked some BeltArt. I really don’t support the immature, anarchistic idea of blind destruction of property, public or private. Whether the destruction is due to disagreement with the focus or cause, or simply due to boredom, it shouldn’t happen. It doesn’t bode well for the future of the BeltLine, especially if all it becomes is art parks. This is why we don’t have nice things, Atlanta!

Hell, until I did some (very minor; I’m lazy) digging, I and many others were under the impression that the art was a volunteer initiative. The opinions on the quality of the art sure seemed to lean in that direction.

From C’s angry email:

The art(?). The problems with the art are twofold.
Problem # 1: IT’S NOT “PARK ART.” In fact, most of it is the opposite of what one would want in a park setting, where people are trying to relax and get their minds of the harshnesses of everyday life. There are confrontational issues pieces, many large pieces whose primary feature is that they are RUSTY, a giant organic nest thing (soon to be known as “the place where the rabid raccoons live”), an installment of plywood standups glorifying hobo life, and a series called “misinformation,” which is maps of Atlanta imprinted over the basic geographies of other majour U.S. cities like Chicago and New Orleans on signs designed to imitate the typical “You Are Here” type signs. These raise the same orimary [sic] problem I have with the Sol Lewitt industrial pillar thing at Highland and Glen Iris/Randolph: magnification of the extant issues that a majourity of people probably already have with the neighbourhood as it transitions, rather than providing new foci of hope and advancement. The big difference between the Sol Lewitt and these installments, however, is…
Problem # 2: MOST OF THE ART IS BAD AND POORLY CONSTRUCTED. The “Gay Rights” piece I alluded to is an bunch of doors with little walkways, painted white, and leading to a centrepiece of the US Constitution. It appears to be made from restocks from the Home Depot down the street, and it is already covered in dirt and crud. Plus, it’s right in the middle of the pathway, which encourages its own decay, and inconveniences those few courteous passers-through who don’t just walk on it (believe me, it can’t take it). The rusty stuff is rusty, but it’s unclear whether that is deliberate or incidental. The “Wanderers” hobo installment is made out of shitty plywood and reminds me of the Family Guy skit about the guy who has a clearance sale on disposable yard art. Throughout, posts to provide information are flimsy, and many are unfinished. In a place that needs Jeff Koons, what the Beltline mostly got was pseudo meaningful quasi avant garde crud. Which in a way is what Jeff Koons is too…. but it’s SHINY, pseudo meaningful quasi avant garde crud, and it withstands the abuse of being outdoors well.

For a full list of BeltLine art projects, including performance pieces, which actually sound pretty cool, see here.

C isn’t the first person who mentioned their distaste for the Wanderer’s piece specifically. The Bus Nerd and a friend had gone down that way, come back and simply said “there are cutouts of like, homeless people.” That was weird, I thought. Later, they came back with more reports: “Those things are hipster homeless people. They’re wearing studded belts.” Ooh, great! Romanticizing the crust punk way of life in a city with a pretty bad homeless population? Fanfuckingtastic.

Speaking of homeless people:

BUMS. The guy who threatened to kill me one time in Freedom Park has now moved to swankier digs; under the Highland Overpass of the Beltline Trail. Pretty much all of the overpasses are, as they stand, overtly prone to squatting. I didn’t see any lighting in these places, either. I would not recommend for someone who a) isn’t street smart, b) isn’t relatively intimidating, and/or c) is even remotely attractive in any conventional sense to walk there alone at this juncture.[…]
A FEW of the art pieces are good, at least in some sense. The murals are generally well done. There is a neato picnic bench area thing that goes around the trees near City Hall East before the Ponce rail bridge. And near Edgewood Overpass is a cool use of the discarded railroad ties… they built an Abe Lincoln-esque fort/pathway thing with them that I can see being a lot of fun for kids to play in. In contrast to the other works, these pieces deserve a lot of credit for being relatively excellent, and pragmatic and functional as well.

[Click here to read C’s full BeltLine thoughts.]

I do think this could have been avoided by not opening an interim trail, by the BeltLine organization not raising funds for the public artworks in unguarded, unpopulated areas. It was probably a small amount of money at the outset for consultations and supplies. I’d bet the artists weren’t compensated for their time or creations, because they believe in the BeltLine, or were happy to get their names out there, but I can’t be sure. Though the artworks were intended to be temporary, they’ve expired early at the hands of some unknown assholes. That’s a sad fact, but it’s even worse that this is probably a metaphor for the BeltLine as a whole.

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