Neighbors shocked, disturbed by hanging artwork along Atlanta Beltline

Neighbors shocked, disturbed by hanging artwork along Atlanta Beltline

ATLANTA — Neighbors say they were disturbed when they saw three sculptures hanging from trees along the Atlanta Beltline.

Neighbor Muhammad Abdullah sent Channel 2's Justin Wilfon photos of the sculptures that he said evoked images of hangings and lynchings.

“It was shock and disgust. It was pretty much a representation of a body being hung,” Abdullah said.

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Another neighbor gave Wilfon cellphone video of a crew who arrived Monday to take down the sculptures, just a couple of hours after he contacted Beltline officials about the artwork.

A Beltline spokesperson said it is against censoring the arts but also said, “We have concluded that the intent of this artist’s work does not translate in the public space as he initially hoped.”

The Beltline also told Wilfon the art was intended to be “a sobering nod to the indelible scar left by lynching in the South.”

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Neighbors said they believe the artist should find a different way to tell that story.

“I feel like he could have got the message out in a better way than actually showing the silhouette of a body being hung from a tree,” Abdullah said.

Wilfon attempted several times Monday to contact the artist behind the sculptures, D'Andre Brooks, but never heard back from him.

Here is the full statement from the Atlanta Beltline about the artwork:

"At Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., we strive to remain aligned with our core values as well as the City and their stance on anti-censorship of arts and culture programming. After the scheduled ‘artists talks’ and concerns expressed at recent community meetings, we have concluded that the intent of this artist’s work does not translate in the public space as he initially hoped, rendering it unviable as public art. The installation was removed as of 2 p.m. today. 

"Born and raised in Atlanta’s Westside, D’Andre Brooks is an African American artist who analyzes how the subversion of symbolism, and the language of anger, pain, and outrage can be catalyzed to heal social and racial divides. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Georgia Southern University and a Master of Arts from SCAD-Atlanta. Brooks is a staunch believer that artists must preserve cultural and community histories and uplift the richness of that culture. He is a practicing artist as well as a conservator.

"According to Brooks’ artist statement, the artwork in question is a cocoon which represents a powerful symbol of potential and hope, yet at human scale it becomes a sobering nod to the indelible scar left by lynching in the South. Undermining the implications of the installation’s forms, the cocoon is the representation of potential, change, and growth– the transition into a new life and new thought process as a butterfly. While the unseen caterpillar represents any negative, bigoted, or narrow-minded thoughts and ideology that are preventing racial harmony, the implied butterfly is acknowledgment, acceptance, and hope. The cocoon is the metamorphosis. Despite its past, the caterpillar is flourishing and becoming beautiful. The installation is a vessel for personal growth, community outreach, and an address to social nuances that ultimately prevent change."