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Art in motion

Atlanta skyline provides backdrop for new sculpture park

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Atlanta sculptor Zachary Coffin has a big idea. Actually, he has tons of big ideas. On one-and-a-half acres of land at the edge of Candler Smith historic warehouse in West End, he's created the City View Sculpture Park with seven of his monumental creations. A giant wind chime, a spinning boulder and an enormous quivering javelin are three of the kinetic forms in the ad-hoc park.

City View Sculpture Park is the latest in Altanta's new crop of alternative art spaces. The park offers a panoramic vista of Midtown and downtown Atlanta, sweeping from the pointy Bank of America to the gold-domed Capitol. At the venue's opening last week, the weather was cool and clear. Visitors happily jumped and spun and thwonked Coffin's huge sculptures, reading their histories from a small display set up nearby.

Coffin built and exhibited the sculptures at various locations around the country over the past 10 years. "Rockspinner," a monumental, 22,000-pound hunk of Nevada granite from the Black Rock Desert, made its whirling debut in 2001 at the Burning Man festival. "Bell Tower," an XXX large wind chime, was built and exhibited in New York before making its ponderous way to Atlanta for display during the Olympics. The painted steel structure "Assagai" was built in San Francisco. Named after a North African tree from which the Berber tribe carved their spears, the sculpture quivers when the viewer/participant pulls down on one end of its long spiked form.

"This is my personal sculpture history," Coffin says. "I come from a tradition of sculptors who take over abandoned land and do this."

Atlanta-born Coffin studied at The Cooper Union School of Art in New York before he went out into the world to build these massive mechanisms. When he realized people liked to interact with his work, he began to build weather-resistant, kinetic pieces that are safe, easy and inexpensive to maintain. "Public space needs to fulfill many needs. One of these should be the display of art that inspires, challenges and entertains," he says.

The local Metropolitan Public Art Coalition helped sponsor City View's opening, and that organization's co-founder Bill Gignilliat promises more sculpture parks and public art initiatives to come. "This is just the beginning," he says.

City View Sculpture Park is located in the West End. From downtown Atlanta, take I-20 west to Exit 55B, and turn left onto Lee Street. At the second traffic light, turn left onto Ralph David Abernathy. Go under the railroad tracks and turn right onto Murphy Avenue. Go 300 yards, turn left into gate and follow signs. Free and open to the public during daylight hours. Visit zacharycoffin.com.

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