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Monday, March 24, 2014

City of Atlanta presents a pro-public art video? Hmmm

The City of Atlanta's stance on public art gets more ironic by the day.

At the same time that city officials are pushing for a controversial law meant to rein in artwork visible on private property, a new video sponsored in part by the city puts such public art in a positive light.

The educational video is part of a public art web series co-presented by AtlantaPlanIt.com - which is part of Public Broadcasting Atlanta - and the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs. Yep, that's the same Office of Cultural Affairs that largely would be responsible for overseeing the stringent approval process for public art should the ordinance pass.

Filmed in the eclectic Cabbagetown neighborhood around the Krog Tunnel, "Atlanta Public Art: Street Art in Atlanta" features Sam Parker, the chair of Cabbagetown Wallkeepers, and Atlanta visual artist Michi Meko discussing the importance of public murals, street art and graffiti.

"We do not challenge corporations or giant advertisements for beers or any of these other products that billboards try to sell us, but these things are public space so I think that the graffiti writer and the street artist directly challenge that sort of notion," Meko says as the video highlights works by Hense, Peter Ferrari and other visual artists.

The legislation, which seeks to regulate public art on private property, seems culturally regressive in comparison. It's backed by Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd.

CL news editor Thomas Wheatley provided a breakdown of the legislation last week and posted the ordinance in full. In addition to seeking approval from three city departments - including OCA, the traffic and transportation department, and the Urban Design Commission - the applicant would also have to present the proposed artwork before the respective Neighborhood Planning Unit for another OK. After all of that, City Council would take a final vote to deny or approve the piece with or without conditions.

Based on the date stamped on the ordinance, it looks like city council completed its review process of the proposal about a month before the Atlanta Public Art video series launched in February. The first video features a profile on artist Evereman.

Perhaps this is just a case of one hand of government not knowing what the other is up to. But maybe it should be required viewing for Councilwoman Shepherd and anyone else voting on the legislation going forward.

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