Friday, June 24, 2011

Roadside gallery pops up on Memorial Drive

Posted By on Fri, Jun 24, 2011 at 10:41 AM

The other week, someone brought to my attention what he said appeared to be a kind of rotating roadside gallery on Memorial Drive across from Oakland Cemetery. I drove by the other day and spotted what looked like two works by local artist and gardener Cooper Sanchez hanging on the exterior wall of an abandoned building, formerly home to an ice cream/dry ice shop.

I e-mailed Sanchez to find out what was up.

He explained that he's been placing "box spring pieces" on the wall for fun. Part art experiment, part spring cleaning — "I had 20 or so saved box springs behind my garage that started to look like a hoarders retreat," he says — he started the project after working with the city to cultivate a meadow in the xeroscaped lot in front of Oakland Cemetery's gate.

Since it's a spring meadow, you won't see anything in bloom in the space right now, but "there should still be some fall color coming" says Sanchez. He hopes to continue with the meadow next year.

And what about the paintings? The building they now hang on was covered in tags and Sanchez wanted a nicer backdrop for his meadow. So, he sent a proposal to the city (the Atlanta Housing Authority purchased the building this spring he explained). He got the OK to paint over the wall and install some temporary art there to help prevent more tagging. "They don't last very long," Sanchez says of his artworks. "I've been trying to secure them to make it harder to steal but my favorites have been ripped off pretty quickly and that's fine with me."

It might be fine with Sanchez, but it's not OK with at least one of the guys staying in the abandoned building who told CL's Wyatt Williams when he stopped by to check out the wall that he's been keeping a close eye on the works ever since his favorite piece was lifted. According to Sanchez, "the city plans to knock the dry ice building down within the next few months. The meadow should remain but the wall space will go away."

Sanchez has history with Oakland Cemetery: He staged the lovely Oakland — In the Greenhouse Ruins at the landmark in 2009, and has worked closely with the Historic Oakland foundation to preserve, beautify and restore the space since it received a destructive wallop from the 2008 tornado that barreled through Atlanta.

"It's been a fun and cheap exercise to throw some environmentally friendly color pieces up and help beautify an ugly city property," says Cooper.

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