Midtown is widely known as Atlanta’s “heart of the arts” and an epicenter for transit. To see how these characteristics converge in some unique ways, look no further than MARTA’s Arts Center station, where art and transit work together to encourage people to make connections.
This year marks the three-year anniversary of “The Porch” at Arts Center Station, Midtown Alliance’s first placemaking project in collaboration with MARTA. The effort was borne out of mutual interest in reinvigorating an underused public space on the station’s east edge to make it more inviting.
Midtown Alliance and MARTA now are gearing up for major enhancements of the Arts Center Station, and the initiative is kicking off with a restoration of the Porch’s piano, which made its debut on the east side of the plaza in 2016.
Read more to find out about the Porch’s early days and how the Arts Center Station will be transformed in the coming months.
The Porch’s Beginnings
Spanish designer Jamie Hayon’s whimsical exhibit “Tiovivo,” an installation of four large-scale wooden sculptures on the Woodruff Arts Center’s Carroll Slater Sifly Piazza, was the primary inspiration behind the station’s design. Hayon created six large designs that were applied to the windows of the pedestrian bridge, resulting in a transformational effect for MARTA users entering and exiting the station. Additions to the plaza that extended Hayon’s creative vision included: decals on the ground plane, also created by Hayon, the piano designed by artist Jeremy Ray, a pinwheel installation by artist Gina Thompson, as well as a cafe tables and chairs, string lighting, a bike repair station, and a Little Free Library.
Small and creative venues like the Porch, provide the opportunity to experiment and test new ideas. Although not all of the original plaza elements are still in place, there have been a few pleasant surprises. According to Lauren Bohn, Project Manager for Urban Design and Placemaking for Midtown Alliance, two of the biggest successes have been the window treatments and the piano, both of which were anticipated to have much shorter life spans.
Tune In and Tune Up
Jeremy Ray’s piano is a focal point at the Arts Center Station, attracting aspiring musicians and piano amateurs all across Midtown since its arrival.
Check out this video of Audy Maxineau, a Midtown resident for over 20 years and self-taught piano player, who spoke with us about what the Arts Center Station piano means to him.
But after three years of bringing joy to everyone who passes through the Arts Center Plaza, the piano needs a little tune up. This month, we’re bringing Ray back to give the piano a little love and a fresh coat of paint.
“It will be great to bring some new energy to the piano,” said Ray, whose work also appears in Broadstone Midtown on Juniper Street. “I’m also a musician, so this unites the two main things in my life: art and music. It means everything to see this instrument made readily available for anyone to take a break and have a creative voice.”
Ray doesn’t visit the piano often, but he recalled a time recently when he stopped by after seeing an exhibit at the High Museum and encountered a man playing the instrument.
“He just seemed so at peace,” Ray said. “I sat down with him for a second and talked to him, and initially I wasn’t going to tell him I was the one who painted the piano. It was such a cool experience, and an example of how music is a strong universal language that brings people together. That’s something the world really needs.”
Last time Ray painted the piano, he put together a color scheme and then let the creative process take over, finishing the abstract design in one day. This time, he has something “a little tighter in mind to make the piano pop.”
A conceptual drawing of the Arts Center MARTA Station enhancements — actual designs are still in process with MARTA.
What’s Next: West Peachtree Street
Bohn believes that we now have an opportunity to apply what we have learned from the Porch to the upcoming enhancements on the West Peachtree Street side of Arts Center Station, which are slated to begin construction later this month.
“We have realized that we first need to analyze how the space (West Peachtree side) is being used. We want to start with seating and lighting and then layer activity on from there. We want to be clear to people that this is called Arts Center Station for a reason and cross-pollinate between transit riders and art patrons,” Bohn said.
Similar to the improvements Midtown Alliance and MARTA made to the Midtown Station in 2018, the focus will be on public art and custom-designed seating platforms to improve transit riders’ experience and enhance station visibility and wayfinding. Unlike projects at Midtown Station or the Porch, this project will include a considerable amount of landscaping work to help bring the plaza to life.
Come Join Us!
Jeremy Ray will be repainting the piano at The Porch between August 12 and 14, and everyone is invited to stop by the plaza and watch the process unfold. You can also check out Ray’s work on his Instagram here.
MARTA’s Artbound Live program features a variety of musical acts, dance, visual art, and theater performance that run Monday - Friday from 3 pm - 6pm nine stations across the Atlanta area, including Midtown and Arts Center. View the schedule here.
Be on the lookout for exciting transformations to the plaza along West Peachtree Street. Construction is anticipated to begin in the next couple weeks so that we can deliver a fresh new public space to you this fall!