Atlantic City is known primarily for being the gambling capital of the East Coast, but now thanks to a new redevelopment project, it may become a cultural center. The ARTLANTIC project began last November, and has already reclaimed an empty space sandwiched between casinos, transforming it into a lush public sculpture park to be enjoyed by residents and tourists alike. Headed by curator Lance Fung, the initiative will continue to rehabilitate disused areas around Atlantic City, infusing public art from leading artists like Kiki Smith and Peter Hutchinson, as well as green space, into the beachfront city.
Less than a year ago, the seven-acre ARTLANTIC site was a disused gravel lot bordering Atlantic City’s famous boardwalk. Envisioned by Lance Fung and funded by the Atlantic City Alliance and the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, the space was taken back for the community as a place for gathering, socializing, relaxing and interacting with world-class art.
The park site is framed by two massive earth-art pieces covered in thick local grasses and wildflowers, shaped like the infinity sign and rising to 14 and 11 feet. The grassy hills welcome guests to climb or recline, and are interspersed with word sculptures by artist Robert Barry that illuminate at night. In the center of the rings of earth art is a sunken pirate ship piece by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. The installation pays tribute to the long forgotten ships on the Atlantic Ocean floor and also serve as a fantastical place for kids to dream and play.
Another garden called “Her” by sculptor Kiki Smith faces the elevated earth, and is planted with red foliage, berries and flowers and centered around a statue of the artist’s sister, who passed away from AIDS in the 1980s.
Seminal land artist Peter Hutchinson also brought in his “Thrown Rope” gardens for an audience of press. Submitting to the idea of chance to design the garden, the 83 year old artist cast a rope into the soil, and let its natural configuration determine the shape. Gardeners then immediately planted hedges and flowers into the snake-like patterns, creating a third gorgeously curvaceous garden. Local artists Jedediah Morfit and Robert Lach have also been commissioned to bring their work into the public art realm.
Two other sites are also underway- an interactive mural by John Roloff located right on the boardwalk, as well as a walkway on Atlantic City’s bay side that will be transformed into an open-air sculpture park. ARTLANTIC is slated to be completed in September, after which the project will span five years and continue to improve and reclaim spaces for public use throughout the city.
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