Named after Felix Bland, whose parents bought the original four acres of land during Reconstruction that became the community’s core, Blandtown thrived as a close-knit, African American community with 200 -300 homes for over 80 years. In 1956 Blandtown was rezoned from residential to heavy industrial by white business owners usurping the neighborhood association. This led to the residential neighborhood’s precipitous decline. Blandtown serves as a case study in Larry Keating’s Atlanta: Race, Class, and Urban Expansion as an example of the removal of black residential clusters from predominantly white portions of the city to minimize the black vote. With only four of the original homes remaining, Blandtown is experiencing a new wave of residential and commercial redevelopment.
Blandtown Banners features high-contrast photographs of Blandtown landmarks (former and remaining), infrastructure, and new construction projects that are accompanied by a word with the prefix “re”, offering up multiple interpretations through wordplay. Placed where traffic frequently backs up, my intent is to prompt a dialogue with viewers on Blandtown: its history, rapid development, and future. This program is supported by the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs through a Neighborhood Arts Grant in collaboration with the Upper Westside Improvement District, Blandtown Neighborhood Association, and the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management.
Gallery 72, Atlanta, GA October 10 – November 27, 2019
This exhibition focuses on the demise and resettlement of the residential core of the westside Atlanta neighborhood of Blandtown, its history, recent rapid transformation, and its derided and consequently underutilized name.
The façade of a large metal sign emblazoned with the phrase “Welcome to Heart of Blandtown” features a background image of an Indian-head test pattern, which was used from the late 1940’s to late 1970’s as a black and white television test pattern. Transmitted after television stations signed off for the night, the pattern indicated no programming was being broadcast. As this area of Blandtown adjusts its frequency and comes back on-the-air after most of the land was cleared, the objective of this artwork is to engage residents in a dialogue by reminding and/or informing them of the neighborhood’s name and history.
The first in a series of discussions on Atlanta’s Blandtown neighborhood. Conversation #1 features Gregor’s dialogue with Dr. Rhana Gittens regarding her recent dissertation, Displacing the “Black Mecca”: Romanticizing or Witnessing African American Historical Trajectories in the Case of the Atlanta BeltLine, which focuses in part on Blandtown.
Founded in 1872 on Atlanta’s west side, Blandtown was once a thriving African American community. Undermined by rezoning in the 1950’s and gentrification in the 2000’s, the neighborhood serves as a case study for current development, social justice, and land use issues relating to the greater city. The project was supported by a Virtual Arts Initiative Grant through Fulton County Arts & Culture.