From Creative Loafing by: John Ruch A beloved statue celebrating women’s rights is heading for a permanent, prominent home in Freedom Park, the city’s cultural affairs chief tells CL, after the untangling of red tape that left its future in limbo and fans concerned.
One Woman Rising, a painted fiberglass figure of a dancing woman, currently sits in a temporary location along the Atlanta Beltline’s Eastside Trail. Now it will return to Freedom Park, where it debuted last year as part of Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler’s One Billion Rising women’s rights event.
“We are thrilled to know that [One Woman Rising] will be back on Freedom Park,” said Randi Layne, executive director of the Chelko Foundation, the Atlanta-based women’s rights nonprofit that commissioned sculptor Phil Proctor to produce the artwork.
That future wasn’t so clear just last week, when the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation suddenly slammed the brakes on an already signed formal agreement to put the statue in another Freedom Park spot.
The Chelko Foundation, which gifted One Woman Rising to the city in January, was already nervous that it might have to warehouse the statue, which costs a pretty penny to move and store. The statue’s life has been nomadic; its original Freedom Park spot was for temporary exhibits, and so was its current Eastside Trail layover. There were months of stop-and-start city negotiations and reviews in quest of the permanent location, Layne said, while Beltline officials politely nudged them to move on.
Some statue fans even began quietly circulating a petition urging completion of the Freedom Park move that drew about 300 signatures, Layne said. Last week’s parks department announcement, she said, didn’t spark “high drama,” but did leave her confused and worried that Freedom Park might be off the table.
“There have just been some miscommunication or missed opportunities,” Camille Russell Love, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, told CL on Monday.
The city definitely wants the statue somewhere in Freedom Park, Love said. But the exact location fell into confusion for various reasons, including a recent government reshuffle that moved the Office of Cultural Affairs out of the Parks Department.
“I’ll take complete responsibility for the fact that our departure from the parks department left some holes in communication,” said Love, who called Layne to sort things out immediately after speaking with CL. “Bureaucracy is what it is. We were busy and the Parks Department just kind of moved forward without everyone talking.”
It turns out that the Parks-approved site in the Poncey-Highland part of the sprawling park was already pegged by Cultural Affairs for some commissioned works. Instead, the statue may go in one of two spots east of Moreland Avenue, both near where the statue debuted in 2013.
“We want to install One Woman Rising in that area of the park,” Love said. “We can move as quickly as we can move… It shouldn’t take a long time.”
That’s good news for the city’s larger vision of investing in more public art. “Freedom Park was designated as a public art park some years ago, but everything takes funding,” Love said, noting that several more new pieces are on the way. “We really want to make Freedom Park exciting. We really want to make it a tourist attraction.”
And it’s good news for the nomadic statue, with its themes of equality and empowerment, says Layne. “It speaks to Freedom Park as well – freedom for women, freedom for everyone.”