Suwanee's latest art initiative, SculpTour, is officially unwrapped and will debut in May. But that is also a spoke in the city's economic wheel.
"Art is a part of our economic development strategy," Suwanee Economic Development Director Denise Brinson said Tuesday at a City Hall event to announce winners of the first SculpTour.
As part of the announcement, Suwanee officials invited a cross-section of people from business, government, education and media, including some from nearby cities. Duluth Mayor Nancy Harris and Gwinnett school board member Carole Boyce were among the attendees.
SculpTour involves displaying 15 sculptures at various points around Suwanee; it is set to begin in May and run through March 2012. The city will pay the artists a stipend to lease the works; online voting by residents will be allowed, and a "people's choice" winner will be purchased for permanent display.
The SculpTour winners are: Lori Sturgess, Roswell, "Bright Idea"; Jennifer Freeman, Johns Creek, "Free Spirit" and "Ribbon Dance"; Dylan Mortimer, Kansas City, Mo., "Prayer Booth"; Harry McDaniel, Asheville, N.C., "Intrusion"; Andrew Crawford, Atlanta, "Deconstructed Bolt"; Harry Zmijewski, Buford, "Dreams Of Flying" and "Amne"; Sydney Atkinson, Woodstock, "Sunbeam II"; Dennis Primm, Buford, "Sticks 7"; Damon Lusky, Dawsonville, "Arachnid"; Gregory Johnson, Cumming, "Catching The Wind"; Elusia Altman, Bogota, N.J., "Mother And Child"; Gus and Lina Ocamposilva, Clearwater, Fla., "Magic Rain" and "Sunset."
Keynote speaker Joe Bankoff of Atlanta's Woodruff Arts Center noted that "innovation is our (America's) secret."
In the 1990s, Bankoff noted that "jobs started to move where the people are." If you want to bring a data center to town, for example, you have to have a work force that can do that. The secret is not in tax breaks, he said, but "it's in the quality of life and the work force."
He described how the Woodruff Arts Center, with a $90 million annual budget, helped to rebuild Atlanta's Midtown area. He said that Suwanee can be "proud of Town Center. ... Arts is not the brick, it's the glue" of economic success.
"It infects the schools. ... Every high performing school in Georgia has an arts program."
And showing that Suwanee sees art potential in many things, Brinson also announced that a portion of the iconic former Gwinnett water towers along Interstate 85 will have an art home in Suwanee. A piece of steel 18 feet wide by 7 feet high and weighing 3,500 pounds is being eyed as a piece of public art, with an RFP planned. Also destined for Suwanee, as reported by Suwanee Patch, is a remnant of the World Trade Center towers in New York destroyed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Noting that attendance from people age 25 to 34 at the Woodruff center is up recently, Bankoff said "people are turning to things that are culturally and community based."
SculpTour is entirely funded through corporate sponsors and individuals.
Also part of Tuesday's event at City Hall were a string quartet from Peachtree Ridge High and student artists and a teacher from North Gwinnett High.