Left: Scopa, Joni Younkinz-Herzog. Right: Stan Mullins, Hands of Respect.
The city of Watkinsville, known as the “Artland of Georgia,” recently installed several sculptures in its downtown. The sculptures and a series of art panels represent two pop-up exhibitions designed to enhance public spaces in the city and encourage conversations on the importance of art in this community of 2,800.
The project is a result of a partnership that began in 2015 between Watkinsville and the Oconee Cultural Arts Foundation (OCAF). Funding from a Georgia Council for the Arts grant and city revenues kick started the exhibition in 2015. “We knew we wanted to do something with the arts in our community, but no one with the city has experience in the arts,” said Mayor Charles Ivie. “The city was able to provide some funds and in-kind labor. OCAF was the brains and the city was the brawn to make this happen.”
So far, the feedback from residents has been very positive and the project has inspired other communities to consider art displays. “The city of Harlem came up to visit and learn about our efforts,” said Ivie. “We want other communities to know that this can be done and we invite everyone to come visit and learn more. We also give free tours.”
Next, the city is planning to select local artists to complete artwork on a water tower, as well as murals on a retaining wall and downtown building. Watkinsville is also putting the finishing touches on a downtown park, Watkinsville Woods, a six-acre passive greenspace in the heart of the city, steps away from Main Street and residential areas. The project allows the city to preserve a historic property within the city limits, and it includes walking paths through the wooded park, a native “pocket prairie,” birdhouses, benches and an access point and bridge to connect the property with historic Pulpit Rock.