When Laura Adams and Andrew Feiler got married two years ago, they wanted to keep it simple. They exchanged vows at sunrise in Old Fourth Ward Park off the Atlanta BeltLine. Their dog, Blueberry, was the sole witness. The Woodruff Arts Center’s Doug Shipman, a longtime friend with a degree from Harvard’s divinity school, officiated. A family brunch followed; the evening featured dinner with friends and family. In a final break with orthodoxy, the couple made one request.
“Our wedding invitations said ‘no gifts,’” says Adams, an artist and owner of Brickworks Gallery
Their families had other ideas.
At brunch, the bride’s mother and the groom’s brother announced that they’d conspired with the other wedding guests to honor the newlyweds’ civic-mindedness, neighborhood pride and art practices by pooling funds to commission a site-specific piece of public art. The sculpture will be placed permanently in the plaza where Greenwood Avenue meets the BeltLine in Atlanta’s Virginia-Highland neighborhood, not far from the couple’s home.
Any artist is eligible to submit a proposal for the $17,500 commission and individuals can submit multiple works. The application deadline is midnight July 15, with an installation target of May 1, 2021. The three-dimensional, freestanding piece must be durable, easy to maintain and create a visual link between the BeltLine and Greenwood Avenue. (For details, email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Adams and Feiler envision gifting the city with an iconic landmark that will reflect the site’s history and their values — including progressivism, sustainability, art, history and community improvement — but they’re open to being surprised.
“There are lots of ways you can envision a piece of public art reflecting your values,” says Feiler, a fine-art photographer, activist and entrepreneur. “But Laura and I remain flexible and open-minded to how artists may want to express that.”
The synthesis of community and art has characterized Feiler’s family life for a long time. The fifth-generation Georgian was raised by people who practiced what they preached when telling their children “to whom much is given, much will be required.” The family has a history of recognizing milestones with originality, creativity and an eye on public service.
“Our wedding present is the kind of gift Adam’s family loves to give,” Adams says, “a huge gesture that requires a lot of work.”
When Feiler turned 40, his parents asked him to print 40 of his best photographs, then hosted his birthday party at an art gallery where $14,000 worth of photos was sold. All proceeds benefited Hands On Atlanta, a nonprofit whose motto is “Do something good right now” and where Feiler was on the board.
The Savannah of his youth, Feiler says, was a place of “small-town empowerment.” If his parents didn’t like something, they’d pick up the phone and try to change it. The takeaway was that win or lose, you have a civic duty to fight the battle. After high school, Feiler bounced around the world for 15 years taking pictures, certain he’d never return to the South.
Ultimately, it took leaving for Feiler to develop a greater appreciation for the richness and complexity of Southern culture. He was especially inspired by Atlanta’s reputation as a big city that welcomes outsiders to be engaged in community. And the opportunity to participate in the progressive movement was a major draw.
Adams, an avid environmentalist, historic preservationist and bird-watcher, shares her husband’s love for the BeltLine, public parks and public gathering spaces. Two years after the fact, she remains humbled and overwhelmed by the unexpected wedding gift that aligns so perfectly with their lives, values and relationship.
“Atlanta needs more public art,” Feiler says. “It needs more great public art. Laura and I are excited to be able to contribute to that and if this gift inspires others to follow this example, it’ll be a great legacy for Atlanta.”
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