ART BEAT: Suwanee's 'SculpTour' wraps a first year of audience-gathering art

The city of Suwanee has long been a proponent of public art, and nowhere has their commitment been visibly stronger than with their first "SculpTour." From May 2011 through March, 15 pieces of sculpture have been displayed elegantly throughout the city's Town Center Park and environs, enabling residents and visitors alike to appreciate the artwork on a personal level.

With the end of the "SculpTour" in sight, plans are already being put into place for the second year's event. A Call to Artists/Request for Proposal is now out for the 2012-13 "SculpTour," soliciting artists to participate. A special "SculpTour Podcast" is available on iTunes.

Suwanee's Economic Development Director Denise Brinson has nurtured the event from its inception.

"'SculpTour' was our first big public outdoor art exhibit," she said. "There were a significant number of pieces that people could visit all at once."

Brinson describes watching visitors as she eats in Suwanee's restaurants. "Through the windows, I can see people walk up to the sculptures, interact with them. The reaction has been amazing."

The value of such art exhibitions goes beyond visitors' enjoyment. The effort makes sense from an economic point.

"It is as much of an economic development initiative as it is public art. 'SculpTour' brings in people to the area, and it makes our area interesting. Everybody wants to live and work in an interesting place," Brinson said.

The podcast was made possible by a grant from the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau. It is a 32-minute podcast that provides information about the 15 pieces of sculpture as well as some of the permanent pieces of art the city already owns. Participating artists provide insight as well. The podcast was created for visitors to listen to while they walk through Suwanee admiring the artwork.

To access the podcast, visit iTunes and search "Suwanee SculpTour." Click on the "Guide to 2011 Suwanee SculpTour" link to download. An audio-only tour may also be downloaded from the city's website by clicking the "listen" button in the right margin of the "What's New/Suwanee SculpTour" page.

Watching the podcast might come in handy as there is still time to vote for your favorite piece of sculpture. The People's Choice Award is found on the city's website by going to www.suwanee.com/whatsnew.sculptour.php. Click on the green "Vote for Me" button beside the description of your favorite piece of art. Paper ballots are also available at City Hall.

Artists interested in participating in the second annual SculpTour may go to www.suwanee.com/businessmatters.requestforproposals.php. For more information, call Denise Brinson or Tony Shrewsbury at 770-945-8996 or email denise@suwanee.com or tshrewsbury@suwanee.com. Artists accepted into the tour receive a $1,000 stipend. The winning People's Choice Award artwork will become a part of Suwanee's permanent collection.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.