In late September, artist Heidi Clinite began work on a mural on the side of a former dry cleaners located on College Street, in the heart of the College Hill Corridor in Macon. The project is funded through a Knight Neighborhood Challenge grant, part of a multi-year revitalization effort. According to CollegeHillMacon.com, “What began as a Senior Capstone project for a group of graduating Mercer students developed into a comprehensive College Hill Corridor Master Plan, where public input was compiled to utilize the Corridor as a destination that improves the connection between Mercer University and Downtown Macon.”
Public art was a major component of the master plan, but so far, the community has only produced a handful of public art projects. Macon Arts Alliance, a Knight Arts grantee, installed a series of hand-painted fiberglass bears in late 2011 using a KNC grant. (More info on Panoramio, “The World This Week”, and “Smug Mug.”) Sam Macfie was awarded a grant to create a temporary art installation called “Positive Postcards.” Centenary Community Ministries used a portion of a KNC grant to have a mural painted for the offices of it’s bicycle program. While all these projects have resulted in new public art in the corridor, the confluence of public art originally conceived has yet to be realized.
Currently at a midpoint in the five-year plan for grants, the College Hill Corridor Commission is assessing progress on every aspect of the master plan. Because of a desire for a more extensive implementation of public art, a new focus on public art is taking hold within the volunteer group. In August, the commission brought a consultant to Macon to hold a public meeting with the community and gain feedback on public art in the corridor. This week, a special committee will convene for the first time to begin working on a new, more aggressive approach to public art.
As Clinite’s mural nears completion, a tide is beginning to shift. Her mural is the largest single piece of public art to result from the KNC grants, but that title may be short-lived. Instead of representing the end of a process, her monumental work near completion at a time of renewed focus on public art in the corridor. Within the final two years of the Knight Neighborhood Challenge grant cycles, a myriad of new and exciting works of public art should fill a vital piece of the master plan and, hopefully, of the revitalization of a community.
If you have a vested interest in public art in College Hill, or Macon-Bibb County as a whole, and would like to give input to the newly-formed public art committee, please contact me at email@example.com.