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Art Calling to Mind Atlanta’s History

Now that the 2013 Art on the Atlanta BeltLine exhibit is drawing to a close, we are taking a moment to look back on this year’s incredible visual and performing art. Many of this year’s installations call out Atlanta’s history as a railroad hub, and echo the transformative nature of the Atlanta BeltLine by playing on themes of transportation, movement and resurgence.

Some of the most exciting art on display during this year’s exhibition was not only conceived as a nod to Atlanta’s history, but uses actual railroad artifacts that were recovered from the rail lines in the corridor.

Neil Carver's piece, "Decay #4," is a raw sculpture that displays railroad artifacts in various stages of decay, referencing the return-to-nature of the once abandoned corridor. Photo: Christopher T. Martin

Neil Carver’s piece, “Decay #4,” is a raw sculpture that displays railroad artifacts in various stages of decay, referencing the return-to-nature of the once abandoned corridor. Photo: Christopher T. Martin

"Return to Nature," a mural by Robin Morris, also represents the reclamation of the railroad corridor by nature. Photo: Christopher T. Martin

“Return to Nature,” a mural by Robin Morris, also represents the reclamation of the railroad corridor by nature. Photo: Christopher T. Martin

Nick Kahler's "Ludic Jungle" in the Southwest Corridor is composed of railroad ties. Photo: Christopher T. Martin

Nick Kahler’s “Ludic Jungle” in the Southwest Corridor is composed of railroad ties. Photo: Christopher T. Martin

These works are a reminder that the Atlanta BeltLine – and Atlanta as a whole – is moving forward, becoming a walkable, connected city with greater transit and mobility options, while still preserving and celebrating Atlanta’s history.

Allen Peterson's sculpture, "Phoenix: Atlanta's Railroad Rebirth," is composed of railroad artifacts, representing the many manifestations of Atlanta's rebirth as a city. Photo: Christopher T Martin

Allen Peterson’s sculpture, “Phoenix: Atlanta’s Railroad Rebirth,” is composed of railroad artifacts, representing the many manifestations of Atlanta’s rebirth as a city. Photo: Christopher T Martin

Phil Proctor’s contribution to the year-round Art on the Atlanta BeltLine collection also pays homage to Atlanta’s architectural past, in addition to its railroad history. Iron Column, a 23-foot tall Corinthian Column weighing in at just over 13 tons, was built from old rails ,spikes, plates, switches, and rail anchors that were removed from the Atlanta BeltLine corridor. The structure recalls the Corinthian columns on the façade of the former Union Station, the city’s main railroad station, demolished in 1972.

Phil Proctor, Iron Column, IIDA Georgia, Art on the Atlanta BeltLine

“Iron Column,” a sculpture by Phil Proctor and sponsored by IIDA Georgia, calls to mind the former Union Station.

Artists found inspiration in artifacts that did not come directly from the railroad, as well. Lionel Daniels’ live-painting performance piece, Rail Line Photo Album, produced vividly-colored representations of old railroad-related photographs.

Lionel Daniels, Rail Line Photo Album, Art on the Atlanta BeltLine Lionel Daniels, Rail Line Photo Album, Art on the Atlanta BeltLine

Lionel Daniels, Rail Line Photo Album, Art on the Atlanta BeltLine

Not long ago, the abandoned rail corridor, overgrown and underutilized, separated and divided neighborhoods. As the Atlanta BeltLine continues to develop, the corridor becomes a place for connection between these neighborhoods. Public art serves to beautify the corridor and engage the community, while preserving and honoring Atlanta’s rich history.

See the whole lineup of artists – past and present – at art.beltline.org.

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