August 9, 2017

New Public Art in Athens and Nearby

Art Notes

Lawrence Steuck and his Gyroscope House. Photo credit Gerald Alderman

GYROSCOPE HOUSE: The city’s newest public artwork, Lawrence Stueck’s interactive Gyroscope House, was permanently installed at the World of Wonder Playground at the Southeast Clarke Park last month. Supported by the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission, the 14-foot-tall structure resembles a round, open gazebo topped with a mobile windmill. A 360-degree panel circling the top of the structure gradually blends between shades to create a giant color wheel. Promoting exploration and discovery, the painted panel is covered with imagery that ranges from mathematical equations, double helixes, coordinates, roads, flying saucers and gentle reminders to “be kind” and “question everything.” Four benches surround a map of Athens that was sandblasted onto the concrete floor, offering a shady place for caregivers to keep an eye on their kids. 

Steuck, who holds a doctorate in art education from UGA, currently teaches at Athens Academy and also works as an independent contractor. Specializing in educational art, his portfolio includes over 80 creative playscape installations designed to introduce children to educational concepts through engaging, fun methods. By focusing on visual elements of motion and maps, Gyroscope House specifically aims to inspire children to contemplate geography and their unique place in the world.

The Gyroscope House was selected from a pool of 11 submissions entered during a second open call, held after the initial round yielded only three proposals—none of which fully met the project’s requirements. Guided by the ACAC, which was established to advise the government on public art, the selection committee included commissioners Sharyn Dickerson and Andy Herod, representatives from ACC Leisure Services and Central Services departments and a few members of the community. The Gyroscope House is the first SPLOST-affiliated commission completed since the Public Art Master Plan was approved in March. 

ARTSCAPE OCONEE: The Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation (OCAF) and City of Watkinsville expanded two public art exhibitions this summer, planting even more artworks into roadside landscapes. In addition to four of last year’s sculptures by Benjamin Lock, William Massey, Stan Mullins and Robert Clements that will remain on view, “Public Art Watkinsville: A Pop-up Sculpture Exhibit” now features “Glory” by Clements, “Delirium” by Joni Herzog-Younkins and “Peace Bench” by Harold Rittenberry, Jr.

Partially funded by a grant from the Georgia Council for the Arts, “Artscape Oconee: The Monuments of Artland” is a collection of painted 4-foot-by-6-foot and 4-foot-by-8-foot panels scattered across Watkinsville. Nine new panels have been created, with highlights including Peter Loose’s folksy “The Mother of All Armadillos,” Nack’s (Nick Morris) zigzagging “Simple Fields of Confusion,” Andy Cherewick’s surreal “The Drawing Room for ‘Us and Everything All the Time’” and Claire Clements’ serene “Moon Glow.” Other new panels are “Endangered Menagerie / Flatwoods Salamander” by Cameron Hampton, “House of Celebration 2.2017” by Kemp Mooney, “Little Big Girl” by Lisa Freeman, “Leaving the Nest” by students at Oconee County High School and “Artists Extraordinaire” by painting students at University of North Georgia.

Eleven of last year’s pieces will also remain on view, with contributions from Cecel Allee, June Ball, Robert Clements, Will Eskridge, Manda McKay, Leslie Moody, Alex Murawski, Scott Pope, Art Rosebaum, UNG students under the direction of Stacy Koffman, and Whitehead Road Elementary students under the direction of Charles Blair. Brochures with a map of where to find each artwork can be picked up in Oconee County at the Welcome Center, City Hall, Chamber of Commerce, library and OCAF, or downloaded from 

ART DECKO: On the horizon, the Athens Area Arts Council (of which I am a board member) plans to reinstate Art Decko, a public art project located in the College Avenue Parking Deck. Launched over a decade ago in collaboration with the Athens Downtown Development Authority and local schools, Art Decko began as a collection of children’s murals decorating the main stairwell. Now, with matched funding from the Athens Cultural Affairs Commission, the project will offer $500 to six artists who will paint large panels. While beautifying a utilitarianx space, Art Decko also aims to introduce downtown visitors to a few of the talented artists who call Athens home.

The AAAC will host a fundraising event at Go Bar on Saturday, Aug. 19 with live music by Forbidden Waves, Realistic Pillow and Wild Abandon, face and body painting by local artists, and dancing with DJ Mahogany. Information on how to submit a proposal will be announced later this month, and the new panels are expected to be installed in the spring.