Art is a constant presence on the Atlanta BeltLine, but July marks the selection of artists for the 2021-22 exhibition, and it also coincides with the release of our commemorative book that is the culmination of the 10th anniversary celebration of Art on the Atlanta BeltLine during the 2020-21 season. For these reasons, we are excited to feature Arts & Culture Program Manager Miranda Kyle for this month’s staff spotlight.
Miranda Kyle had an atypical childhood growing up in North Carolina’s Cape Fear River Basin, home to the Lumbee and Waccamaw peoples. The daughter of a Native American mother and a father she describes as a hobbyist historian, she was immersed in storytelling during her childhood and raised to live life with intention, purpose, and a love for animals and the environment. Her mother enjoyed rehabilitating wildlife, so Miranda grew up with “pets” such as deer, hawks and bobcats. She and her two siblings were home schooled and encouraged to learn through experience and failure exploring what she affectionately calls the “swamp lands” of eastern North Carolina.
Initially a chemistry major at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, Miranda attended an iron pour and was instantly hooked on the metallurgic arts. She decided to change majors, saying, “Nope! I’m doing sculpture. I want to play with molten metal.” After completing her art studies at UNCW, she attended graduate school at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where she received a degree in drawing and painting.
Miranda returned stateside at the start of the 2008 economic downturn. Back in Wilmington, she waited tables and served as a veterinary surgical technician. In addition, she sold and curated art, while also engaging in social justice activism. She relocated to Atlanta in 2011 to work in the film industry and continued to work in veterinary care at Ansley Animal Clinic.
Stalled in her professional pursuits, she decided to further her arts education and enrolled at SCAD in 2013 for a Masters of Fine Arts in sculpture. She says she was “immersed in the Atlanta DIY scene, working on Broad Street with Eyedrum and the Mammal Gallery, doing projects with warehouse and pop-up exhibitions, and really making that my community.”
While at SCAD, she secured a fellowship at the Atlanta BeltLine and worked on various installations and projects. She was invited to continue on as a contractor to manage ongoing installations, consult with developers and secure permits. In 2017, she was hired full-time to oversee the Art on the Atlanta BeltLine program.
She says running the arts & culture program is not simply “doing art” – it requires a comprehensive understanding of the overall BeltLine project. “I coordinate with the real estate team, the landscape team, the design & construction team, and the transit team. The arts & culture department touches every single other department because art is integrated into every aspect of what this project is meant to do.”
Under her stewardship, Art on the BeltLine expanded from a seasonal exhibition to a year-round program. She crafted policy documents to better define program objectives and community responsibilities, and she led the first arts & culture strategic implementation plan funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. Asked to identify a signature moment, she mentions the first-ever public art residency program in the City of Atlanta, which she calls “one of our most successful programs and probably the project component I’m most proud of and excited about.”
Miranda believes bureaucratic hurdles involved in public art result in artistic expression that “focuses on Euro-centric pedagogy” and finds opportunities are “often very inaccessible to people who don’t have formal arts backgrounds or don’t have access to resources, which tends to exclude a lot of BIPOC (black and indigenous people of color) people.” Because of these concerns, the residency program was specifically designed to give access and opportunity to BIPOC voices in the Atlanta metro region. She is pleased BeltLine leadership has given her great latitude with the program and says she feels a particular cultural obligation “to advocate for indigenous representation in our public spaces and our public discourse.”
Looking ahead, Miranda “hopes to expand philanthropic investment to fund large-scale art projects and bring in international ‘rock star’ artists to collaborate with some of our local rock stars.” She is excited about the energy she is seeing with the developers who want to engage and invest in public art, saying, “they’re really interested in ideas for how to include public art in their spaces in an intentional way that is very community inclusive. Developers understand what a powerful tool they have to be able to invest in the local arts economy by employing and commissioning local artists to create artwork for their developments on the corridor.” She especially appreciates the engagement by Rangewater, which has established its own residency program and invests not only money and resources, but also creates spaces for artists to live and work. She believes it has the potential to become a model for other developers to follow.
Miranda says she hopes to leave behind a legacy of relationship building, particularly with regards to engagements with indigenous people. She has been married to her husband, Nick, for 10 years and they recently welcomed their first child, Oberon. They have a dog, a cat, a snake, and – of course – a rehabilitated pet squirrel.
Miranda Kyle is the Arts & Culture Program Manager for the Atlanta BeltLine and a “fledgling beadwork artist” but always seizes an opportunity to “pour some metal” and create sculptures.