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Project 23Square

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Marietta mural
HADLEY(s) Photography

By Cory Sekine-Pettite

To characterize the City of Marietta as art-friendly would be an understatement. Residents and visitors alike are blessed with a plethora of performing arts centers, galleries, museums, public art displays, and annual arts celebrations. One outstanding example is Project 23Square, which was started by the Marietta Arts Council in 2018 to elevate the arts throughout all 23 square miles of the city. The Marietta Arts Council is a volunteer-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to enriching the artistic and cultural landscape of the City of Marietta through advocacy, education, and public art.

The impetus for Project 23Square began with the inaugural M2R TrailFest, which introduced a mural tour, sculpture garden, mile-long fence gallery, and numerous performances stretching along two miles of the downtown Marietta urban walking and biking trail known as the Mountain to River Trail. The Marietta Arts Council works with community leaders, the Marietta City Council, and representatives from each of the Wards of the City to identify appropriate areas for activation and installation. A dozen murals are currently on display, as well as two public art installations along the M2R Trail: The Bridge of Hope and The Bridge of Heroes. Additionally, the “Keys to the City” initiative features pianos painted by local artists.

“The arts are such a crucial part of the fabric of Marietta. We are fortunate to have a rich and diverse offering of visual arts, performing arts, and cultural arts in our city,” said Marietta Arts Council President Bonnie Buckner Reavis. “The Marietta Arts Council works diligently to engage the public with installations and immersive experiences that showcase the city’s assets and its people. We are thrilled to hear that so many visitors are drawn to Marietta because of the work we have been involved with. With only a few years under our belt, we are excited about what our continued efforts will bring to the Marietta art scene.”

The M2R Fence Gallery

The M2R Fence Gallery
The M2R Fence Gallery

The M2R Fence Gallery is a curated installation, which debuted trackside in downtown Marietta last May. Currently on view in Aviation Park in Town Center until Mar. 14, 2021, the exhibition then will travel to Smyrna where it will be on display until April 19.

The 2020 M2R Fence Gallery features more than 100 works of fine art and photography from over 50 artists, ranging from student artists to working artists. Images of the artwork have been printed on 30” x 40” weather-safe panels, thanks to the gallery’s production partner, MaxVision. Among the fine art and photography on display is a special exhibition from photographer Justin Hadley called “6 Feet From Friends: A series of portraits taken during the time of isolation.” Capturing images of conversations from six feet away in a way that depicts how the human eye sees a scene, Hadley says this project is about connecting — and reconnecting — and helping each other understand what we are going through at once, together, and alone. It is about getting to know people better and setting the precedent for how we can remain better friends when we are allowed to gather together again.

Among the paintings on display are works by Anne Dosso, Bill Needs, Cristina Montesinos, Helen Hamerton, Judy Cooper, Ronnie Offen, and more. Student submissions are on view as well.

Murals
If you have spent any time at all in downtown Marietta, then you’ve likely seen some of the murals painted on many of the area’s historic buildings. While some of the murals are hard to miss — the colorful “Marietta” painting alongside the railroad tracks and trail at Thaicoon Restaurant — others are worth finding, such as the “May-Retta” mural outside Two Birds Taphouse or the “Pétanque in the Twilight” at Douceur de France café and bakery.

Currently, there are 12 murals scattered throughout downtown Marietta as part of Project 23Square. You can explore the area yourself to see if you can spot them all, or you can visit the Marietta Arts Council’s website (mariettaartscouncil.com) to see the murals and pinpoint their locations. On the site, you also can learn about each of the artists who painted these beautiful works and read about the inspiration behind each mural. For example, did you know that Craig Stanley, the artist behind the “Marietta” wall at Thaicoon, has designed sets and backgrounds for several TV programs and films?

Other installations
Bridge of Heroes — This pedestrian bridge crosses the South 120 Loop near the intersection at Powder Springs Street. Multi-colored Lucite panels are affixed to the structure in a stunning display, utilizing the colors associated with our first responders and healthcare heroes: red (fire), blue (police), and purple (healthcare workers).

Bridge of Hope — This pedestrian bridge crosses the North 120 Loop at The Brumby Lofts. Multiple jewel-colored Lucite panels here also offer a glimmering spectacle. As light passes through the panels, those traversing the bridge will experience a stained glass effect. Suspended overhead, white doves made of recycled plastic evoke a sense of hope, and have been dedicated to the Marietta High School Graduating Class of 2020.

Sculpture Tour — Each May, as part of the M2R TrailFest, a collection of outdoor sculptures is installed throughout city parks and common areas. The sculptures remain available for public viewing for 60 days. Several local artists have been part of previous sculpture tours and “Free Art Scavenger Hunts” during M2R TrailFest. Bronze, wood, and steel sculptures have been displayed in Atherton Square and outside local churches. And in 2019, Atlanta-based artist Catlanta designed and created 20 pieces of free art that he placed along the trail so that festival attendees could take home their own memento from the day. Perhaps you were lucky enough to find one!

As you can see, there’s a great deal of arts and culture to be found in and around Marietta, and much of it can be seen outdoors where we are relatively safe and socially distanced (as long as we are masked, of course). So get out there this spring. Explore Marietta. Walk the Mountain to River Trail. Get some exercise and breath some fresh air. It’s a safe bet that we all need more of this in our lives.

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Art Poles at Swift-Cantrell Park
Garden Art Poles honoring essential workers on the COVID-19 front lines have been “planted” in Kennesaw’s Swift-Cantrell Park.

The Kennesaw Art & Culture Commission (KACC) partnered with Kennesaw Parks & Recreation, and local artists to create five, colorful and eye-catching garden art poles. Each art pole is uniquely painted on a 4’ to 8’ tall 4”x4” wood post designed to thank essential workers and celebrate how the community has come together during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Art keeps us connected and strengthens our community. It is so important, especially in times of crisis,” said Madelyn Orochena, KACC chair and project lead. “We are grateful for the strong partnership with the City of Kennesaw and, especially, Kennesaw Parks & Recreation, for their support and commitment to bring this project together.”

The poles are prototypes for a larger planned KACC initiative in partnership with the City of Kennesaw and Kennesaw Parks & Recreation Department for additional garden art poles to be planted around the city.