Blandtown, Atlanta, Georgia, March 10 – April 28, 2021
The Agitprop banners are displayed along the Watershed Reservoir fence on Howell Mill Road and Huff Road in Blandtown on Atlanta’s westside.
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.
The Temple of God is now only a memory or recollection. “Collect” references both a short prayer and the gathering of people. Formerly located 1353 Boyd Avenue, Georgia Power purchased the church 2012 and razed it in early 2013. The church’s foundation included the Little Bethel AME Church 1921 cornerstone and The Greater Bethel AME Church 1940 cornerstone. The 2011 image I used was taken by and used with permission by Terry Kearns.
This banner features a 1936 photograph taken by Wilbur Kurtz of Sarah Huff in front her family home. In 1855, her father, Jeremiah Huff, built the house atop an existing 1830’s log cabin. Occupied by both Confederate and Union forces during the Civil War, it survived the war and later became Atlanta’s oldest existing house. In 1954, the 99-year-old house was unceremoniously bulldozed, burned, and plowed into the ground under the direction of Mary Rushton to build a factory. The Rushton Toy Factory was in turn razed in 2008 to make way for Apex West Midtown apartments. So as to the wordplay: “retell” refers to amateur historian Sarah Huff’s memoir My 80 Years in Atlanta and “tell” references the archaeological term of a mound built up from the debris of accumulated refuse from generations of settlement on the same site.
Re/tire, Re/Claim, and re/solution
Re/tire, re/claim and re/solution allude to the changing land usage in Blandtown. Once a thriving African American community surrounded by railroads, stockyards, and fertilizer plants, the neighborhood was rezoned to industrial in the 1950’s. “Re/tire” features an image of the Liberty Tire Recycling facility on Huber Street and “re/claim” features Sand-Rock Transit on Huff Road. As the neighborhood returns to more residential zoning, what will become of these industries, will they retire or stake their claim?
re/settlement, re/construction, re/trench, re/tract, re/doubt
The five banners emblazoned with the words re/settlement, re/construction, re/trench, re/tract and re/doubt raise deliberate questions and/or make pointed comments on recent housing developments in the neighborhood. With well over 200 working-class homes, the neighborhood was undermined in the 1950’s with racist zoning practices that caused a precipitous decline. Since 2016, only 4 of the original houses remain. For the banners with the words “resettlement” and “reconstruction” I combined images of Brock Built’s West Town, a development of single-family homes located in the center of the former residential core. The imposing wall built behind the Apex West Midtown apartments plays off the meaning of “redoubt” being a fortress-like structure and simultaneously being undermined by being labeled in “doubt”. “Retract” features an image of the future site of Minerva Homes’ Hayden Westside demarcated and stubbed with vertical pvc pipes. In a later image of the same site, a trench appears in the foreground referencing both the ditch and the reduction, or retrenchment, of the original neighborhood.