The Atlanta Betline is facing new criticism following the installation and subsequent removal of art depicting prisoners on the Westside Trail.
Here’s the photo series, which has been removed:
Cathy Woolard, an Atlanta mayoral candidate, blasted the installation.
“Atlanta Beltline continues to run roughshod over people and places,” she said on her campaign Facebook page. “Washington Park is a proud historic African American neighborhood that can be lifted up by the Beltline or thoughtlessly wiped out by change. Engaging the community to understand what is desired AND what is not takes effort, communication, representation and relationships, not surveys and reports. So many images of black men would likely be welcomed here but not this, not here, not now. Let’s keep fighting for Atlanta!”
Atlanta Celebrates Photography, which was behind the project, apologized for it.
“We missed the mark with the way our Georgia Fence project on the BeltLine’s Westside Trail was introduced to the community and want to apologize to the community and to the photographer,” the organization said. “The work in question depicts a wonderful program that introduces dogs to inmates in the Fulton County Jail. The program is designed to benefit both the animals, who are from shelters, and the inmates, who build confidence and viable job skills.”
Atlanta BeltLine Inc., which oversees the trail, issued an apology but that apology also drew criticism for its vague description of what occurred.
“We have seen the photos that were installed on the Westside Trail and we are gravely concerned that those images were a part of this year’s Art on the Atlanta BeltLine exhibit displayed in the community,” ABI said in a press release. “Art on the Atlanta BeltLine was created to make art accessible to everyone by bringing the exhibit to public spaces and in doing so, be respectful of the community. The photos that were displayed did not reflect our commitment to do that. The community is understandably and justifiably upset and for that we humbly apologize.
“We make no excuses and are in the process of investigating the process of how this occurred in order to take the most appropriate action to ensure this does not happen again. This includes seeking new ways to involve communities in the art selection process so that it is inclusive and respectful of their rich and vibrant history.”
The message was posted on Facebook, and commenters tore into the organization for not providing enough information about what occurred.
One commenter said, “A better apology: ‘We are sorry for installing an art exhibit featuring black prisoners in a black neighborhood we are actively trying to gentrify. We were unaware of how racist this appears because we focus most of our energy on people who give each other Trader Joe’s gift cards for Christmas.’ Real apologies include a specific discussion of what you did wrong and why it was wrong. Seriously, I would never have guessed what the issue was from that pile of word vomit.”