This story originally appeared in the June 2015 edition of Georgia's Cities.
Julia Knight has been working on a series of six sculptures of athletic standouts who hail from Cedartown.
Hometown heroes are a source of pride and inspiration for communities, many of which are using them to bolster civic pride, tourism and economic development.
In several cities throughout Georgia, officials are supporting art projects that recognize local individuals who have made stellar achievements in sports, military service, business and more. Other communities are using visual art projects to enhance and beautify
their communities as well as increase visitors to specific areas.
Cedartown officials and a Georgia artist have been working on a project for several years that will celebrate a half dozen hometown heroes. It is expected to be unveiled next summer.
For the past 15 months, sculptor Julia Knight has been working on a series of six sculptures of athletic standouts who hail from Cedartown and have been inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. Knight has completed two of the 6-foot sculptures—one of Ray Beck, an All-American who attended Georgia Tech and was part of the 1956 New York Giants football team that won the NFL championship over the Chicago Bears, and the other of Doug Sanders, a former professional golfer who was nicknamed the “peacock of the fairways” due to his stylish dress. She is now developing the piece commemorating John Whitlow Wyatt, who played baseball with such teams as the Detroit Tigers, Brooklyn Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies and who at one time was the pitching coach for the Atlanta Braves and manager for the Atlanta Crackers.
Jane Wyatt, chief financial officer of the Cedartown Walk of Fame, said $270,000 has been raised locally for the project.“It’s an amazing project,” said Wyatt. “Yes, there’s a lot of enthusiasm because everybody knew these men and know these men. Of course the most important thing is to recognize these men not only as great athletes but also successful businessmen.”
Knight lives in Avondale Estates but is originally from Cedartown and considers the project a labor of love. She said she believes the project will be a catalyst to attract more tourists to the area.
Other communities are using art as well in other ways for different reasons.
In Duluth, the sculpture “Ascension,” described as the city’s new gateway art piece, was installed at a roundabout on McClure Bridge Road in April 2014. It’s the third piece of permanent public art in the city, which formed the Duluth Public Art Commission to further Duluth’s mission of cultivating the arts.
“It’s really about bringing prosperity and values of worth as well as patriotism to the city of Duluth,” said Michael Dillon, the artist who created the sculpture.
“In a changing environment, this piece of art represents stability and sustainability here in Duluth,” said Mayor Nancy Harris on the city’s website. “This initial site-specific project is one of many public art pieces the city hopes to commission to enhance the beauty and culture of Duluth and the surrounding areas.
“Ascension,” which cost $100,000, was funded by Duluth-based AGCO Corp., a designer, manufacturer and distributer of agriculture equipment.
Another public art piece is the Living Honorarium monument located at the Main Street entrance of the Town Green in downtown Duluth. It was commissioned to honor living veterans from all branches, as well as the city’s first responders—police, fire and EMS. It was created by Marty Dawe of Cherrylion Studios.
The city of Milton’s first piece of public art is “Victory,” designed by local resident Michael Dillon.
“There’s quite a debate about the intrinsic vs. instrumental value of art, but we at Milton certainly believe public art yields tremendous benefits for our residents,” said Jason Wright, director of innovation and engagement for Milton.
“For one, it gives our renovation of Bell Memorial Park a centerpiece and real sense of place. The statue serves as a statement and features elements of sport and community that everyone can appreciate (children’s hand prints, baseball equipment, etc.). It serves to help shape expectations of the park, create a collective attitude about the benefits of parks and recreation, and hopefully, inspire great memories.”
Dalton is home to the Robert Webb Sculpture Garden, a collection of contemporary outdoor artwork. According to the International Sculpture Center website, the collection represents Georgia’s first permanent sculpture garden or park. The sculpture garden contains works by mid-career and internationally acclaimed artists. The works represent many forms of modern and contemporary sculpture, mostly abstract.
The garden features more than 20 works by diverse artists including North Carolina artist Kyle Van Lusk, Austrian sculptor Caroline Ramersdorfer, Jordan Phelps who grew up in Dalton, Japanese-American artist Isamu Noguchi and Chris Beck, a Dalton sculptor.
The sculpture garden is reported to have resulted in an increase in foot traffic in downtown.