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Outdoor Drive Thru ATL Art Exhibit Brings a Museum Experience to a COVID-weary World

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On June 13th, navigating a parking lot just south of East Atlanta Village came with a twist. Over 800 visitors attended the experimental Drive Thru ATL Exhibit, hosted by the Atlanta arts program and community The Creatives Project (TCP). The gallery was part of TCP’s response to COVID’s effect on the Atlanta artists: all profits made off art sales and donations went to the exhibiting artists and towards future community-building projects. 

Gallery visitors stayed in their cars as they navigated the parking lot, which was momentarily transformed into a museum, sans walls. They drove past murals, sculptures, paintings, and performance pieces and tuned in to listen to artist interviews on the radio.The featured artists themselves set up the gallery Saturday morning, directed the slow-moving car line, and de-installed that night—they were present in every stage of the exhibit’s life cycle. The open-air space was open for only five hours, yet it provided the area with a much needed communal space and show of creative solidarity. 

When I talked to featured artist Shanequa Gay about the Drive Thru, she likened the display to a sort of one-day circus. “What’s special about it is that it’s up one day and gone the next. You just have to be there,” she told me. And actually “being there” is becoming increasingly hard. That’s what made the Drive Thru special: it invited Atlantans from all walks to safely immerse themselves in an artistic environment. It was ephemeral, but perhaps that acted as a needed reminder that all things are. For just a moment, it brought a community together when all reputable sources urged us to keep apart. 

Walls

Jason Kofke painted the wall that seemed to loom over the exhibit. This mural was one of many that lined the parking lot.

Wall by multi-disciplinary artist Brandon Sadler.

Up Close

Painting by Shanequa Gay, who I spoke with about the exhibit.

Close-up of painting by artist John Tindel.

Mosaic by public artist Peter Ferrari, who’s best known for his large-scale murals.

Piece by Kristan Woolford, a self-proclaimed “digital renaissance artist.”

3-D

 

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George Long’s expressive unicorn stood out in size, hue, and sheer presence.

Recycled furniture “creatures” constructed by Mike Stasny.

Bright, airborne horses form a jumbled carousel behind Long’s unicorn.

People

Artists not only created the installations, but they were also the keepers of the Wonderlandish exhibit. Masked and highlighted in yellow safety vests, they constructed the gallery, directed traffic, answered questions, and finally, at the end of the night, packed it all away.

Place

The parking lot environment was meticulously planned so that every car could fully appreciate every installation, but its sense of (simultaneously deep and playful) spontaneity was by no means sacrificed.

Rolling into the Drive Thru space was like entering a curiosity shop. Visitors were met with a meandering row of artifacts of 21st century-life that ranged from the seemingly mundane (a solitary chair), to the enigmatic (unidentifiable creatures composed of what used to be chairs).

Be on the lookout for a revival of the experimental, ephemeral Drive Thru. TCP promises that that was not its last parking lot pop-up.

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