Dunwoody is now dreaming in color about adding more public art in the city after last year’s attempt to define public art as black-and-white.
Before art projects can start, the city needs to create a public art ordinance and commission, said Todd Bressi, a consultant who presented Dunwoody’s Public Art Implementation Plan in a virtual public meeting on Aug. 4.
The presentation moved forward the 2018 Create Dunwoody Arts + Culture Master Plan to add more artwork to help Dunwoody stand out among other cities and create excitement in public places. Bressi said the implementation plan is based on a community survey and interviews.
The results showed that residents want colorful and dynamic artwork, a far cry from when the Dunwoody City Council considered defining public art in the city as “black copy against a white background” to imitate the iconic “Everything Will Be OK” mural on the side of the Spruill Gallery smokehouse building. The council backed off on the ordinance after the city attorney said the definition was too narrow.
Creating a public art ordinance is key to allowing people to create art without needing city funds or involvement, Bressi said. A public art ordinance creates a process for approving and designating pieces as public art and defines such key words as “artist,” “mural” and “public art.” Public art is usually defined as something created by an artist that is preferably original and somewhere in public, Bressi said.
Bressi said a public art commission could review and recommend art projects to the council. The city should also make public art a part of the process for city projects and ask developers to do the same.
“Public art will take the emerging city of Dunwoody to the next level, connecting the community and visitors through a colorful, fun and explorable collection of art and gatherings,” Bressi said in the meeting.
Michael Starling, the director of economic development and public art project manager, said the public art implementation plan should be done in about a month or two and asked local artists to contribute to the city plan.
“We as a city don’t really know where our art people are and people who are passionate about art,” Starling said. “Anyone out there who is an artist or interested in art, we ask that you engage with us. We need your input.”
Starling read resident questions about funding art projects, defining public art and using Dunwoody’s large business base to increase public art.
City art projects could be funded by a special purpose local option sales tax or the hotel-motel tax, Bressi said, though he said he knows city funds have taken a hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to get the private sector to invest in public art, Bressi said the city must first show its commitment to adding more art.
Bressi said the community priorities based on a public art survey show that residents want functional artwork that enhances the environment at parks and commercial areas, such as creating artistic benches and light posts. Bressi said a major theme of Dunwoody’s public art is “connectivity,” pointing to the city’s ongoing multiuse trail project that plans to connect the Georgetown area with Brook Run Park.
Bressi said the city could add ground murals to the multiuse trails or small seating areas as public art. He suggested the city could have “gamechanger” projects, which are ambitious art pieces that take five to 10 years, or “creative activation” projects, which are smaller pieces that could be temporary or created by local artists.
The Georgia Department of Transportation has plans to replace the Chamblee-Dunwoody Road bridge over I-285 as part of its larger toll lane project. Bressi said Dunwood could work with GDOT to add public art projects to the new bridge or existing ones.
“Those are big, complicated projects that involve a lot of people, but they should always be on the city’s radar,” Bressi said.
Bressi said the city or nonprofits could create small grants for local artists to complete projects that are “dynamic, quick projects that could create a sense of fun or be repeated each year.”
He suggested these grants could be $500 to $1,000 and would not have to be limited to visual murals. The grants would help engage smaller, local artists, Bressi said, and is a fast way to get more art in the city.
“There’s a desire and a thirst and a readiness to start art projects in Dunwoody,” Bressi said.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the bridges that the Georgia Department of Transportation plans to replace.