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Sculptour art initiative earns two awards

SUWANEE -- Based on awards alone, Suwanee is beginning to be a trendsetting city around the state.

The city was recently honored with two public arts awards for its inaugural SculpTour exhibit. The Georgia Municipal Association honored Suwanee as a Trendsetter, one of six cities in the state. And ArtWorks! Gwinnett highlighted the city as a co-winner, with the Gwinnett County Public Library, for a Community Impact Community Arts Program Award.

The exhibit, which includes a podcast as part of the walking tour, features 15 sculptures around Town Center.

Amy Henderson, public information manager for the GMA, said the GMA judges were impressed by the city's vision to add art alongside economic development.

"They knew what they wanted to do for their economic development plan, and this is how they'll get there," Henderson said.

Henderson added that Suwanee offered a blueprint for what other cities "could and should do" to blend art with economic development. She said that coincides with GMA's mission, which is to help communities become innovative, effective and responsive. The GMA also appreciated that city officials worked with the community and requested community input.

This is the fourth Trendsetter award the city has won since 2005, which is among the most in the state, Henderson said. Suwanee also won for the creation of the Town Center, community input in local government and its open space and parks initiative.

Henderson said the GMA put Suwanee in the middle of three population groups, those cities with a population between 5,000 and 20,000. But it easily stood out among the 41 entries and 11 finalists.

ArtWorks! Gwinnett saw many of the same qualities that GMA did.

Sally Corbett, the executive director of ArtWorks! Gwinnett, said SculpTour provides a new tourism destination, and gives working artists an opportunity for exposure.

"It was clear that Suwanee SculpTour was the most ambitious and bold public art project during that time frame, and needed to be recognized," Corbett said, referring to Dec. 1, 2010 through Dec. 1, 2011.

Lynne DeWilde, public information officer for the city of Suwanee, said the city wanted to use public art for several purposes: economic development, quality of life and local identity.

When the exhibit closes in March, Suwanee's public arts commission will purchase the most popular exhibit to display on a permanent basis. There have been more than 6,000 votes so far, DeWilde said.

DeWilde said there are plans to open another display in May, but funding is entirely through corporate and private donations.