Guest Blog Post: Jim Kegley, president and CEO of U.S. Micro Corp. U.S. Micro has served as presenting sponsor for Art on the Atlanta BeltLine since the exhibition’s inception four years ago.
At the intersection of Greenwood Avenue and the Eastside Trail, there are five wind-powered kinetic bicycles standing tall above the arboretum planted by Trees Atlanta. They are the foreground in a view of a city that is, like the bicycle-shaped windmills, in motion. To me, the bicycles are symbolic of a city in flux – old structures are being renovated and adapted for new uses, mixed-use developments are springing up and the city is thinking anew about its transportation needs.
“Whirling Wheels,” part of the 2012 Art on the Atlanta BeltLine exhibition and now a fixture of the Eastside Trail, is my favorite public art installation in the program. Composed of old bicycle parts, the piece was created by Dr. Alex Rodriguez, an Atlanta resident and dentist with no formal artistic training. To me, it is emblematic of the change this city is experiencing and the hard work ahead of us.
Over the last 20 years, Atlanta has seen more companies relocating intown and people moving back into the urban core. There is fresh optimism that the city is experiencing a kind of revival that will make it friendlier to pedestrians, bikers and those looking for a sense of community.
A major reason for this new-found optimism is the Atlanta BeltLine, which will ultimately impact this city in bigger ways than the 1996 Olympic Games. In addition to its public parks, trails, affordable housing and plans for transit, the Atlanta BeltLine project also fills an ongoing need in Atlanta: public exhibitions that foster community. Art on the Atlanta BeltLine exemplifies the best of this city’s progress.
Even with all this progress, now is not the time for self-congratulation – not yet. There is still much that can be done to connect the city and make it a better place to live and work. Neighborhoods in close proximity to each other often feel disconnected due to a lack of transportation options; residents who prefer walking still think twice before leaving their car at home; and there is a dearth of unifying community spaces that draw people together to experience the city’s rich diversity.
The bike wheels of Dr. Rodriguez’s installment also remind me that progress is hard work and sometimes it moves faster than other times. But it is always worth pursuing. Anybody who has walked the trails and parks along the Atlanta BeltLine will agree.