North Avenue MARTA station’s days as a rather drab concrete bunker are numbered.

Beginning in February, weather permitting, a section of the centrally located, multimodal facility and its plaza will be enlivened with an art mural and performance stage fashioned from a former shipping container, according to officials with transportation company Norfolk Southern, which is headquartered across the street and is footing the bill.

Selected for the commission by Norfolk Southern and Midtown Alliance is Roswell-based artist Carla Contreras, 32. She was also picked as the Fortune 500 company’s first artist-in-residence when its Midtown headquarters building opened in 2021.

The two components of the installation will be a mural on the station’s north face—near the Fox Theatre, facing Ponce de Leon Avenue and Norfolk Southern’s glassy high-rise headquarters—along with a 30-foot-long shipping container provided by Midtown Alliance.

The shipping container will function as a performing arts stage near new plaza seating.  

The north-facing section of the MARTA station in question, as it appears today. Google Maps

It’s being designed and built by Anthony Pope of Atelier7 Architects, the same firm behind BeltLine MarketPlace pop-up retail locations and Pittsburgh Yards’ Container Courtyard concept.

According to Contreras, the symbolism-heavy mural will depict a surreal landscape with windblown maple seeds at sunset.

The design “derives inspiration from maple seeds in the spring and celebrates the revival and activation of Midtown’s public spaces through uplifting and symbolic artistic interventions that elevate our public life and interactions,” said Contreras, a native of Ecuador, in a project description. “This dynamic and bright concept features the formal and conceptual beauty of Maple seeds blowing in the wind—as a symbol of outreach, hope, renewal, and thriving energy of Midtown and its people.”

Norfolk Southern; designs, Atelier7 Architects

Norfolk Southern reps say the project is a gift from the company to the City of Atlanta at no cost to the public.

Should the installation stick to schedule, the project will be finished by the end of March. Midtown Alliance plans to organize a public unveiling and celebration sometime this spring.

Contreras’ tenure as Norfolk Southern’s Atlanta artist-in-residence will end this summer, when the company announces its next artist to set up shop in a rent-free Midtown space at the headquarters complex. The company held an open call for applicants (with stipulations) that closed in October.

[UPDATE: 6:04 p.m., Feb. 5: Midtown Alliance officials have submitted the following information regarding the MARTA station art project's genesis: "Midtown Alliance appreciates the contributions from the many other partner organizations that are actively involved in bringing new enhancements to the public plaza at the North Avenue MARTA station.

Midtown Alliance received a Project for Public Spaces (PPS) Community Placemaking Grant for the plaza upgrades, funded by Niantic. PPS led Midtown Alliance and MARTA through community engagement meetings to gather ideas for activating the plaza and creating a place where the surrounding community would want to gather. Through these community meetings, we connected with many key partners in the vicinity, including Norfolk Southern, which generously offered to support the project with a mural for the shipping container and the station building façade.

PPC's Community Placemaking Grant includes direct funding for the shipping container performance stage. Additional construction funding for plaza enhancements is provided by the Midtown Improvement District. Anticipated timeline to complete the improvements is spring 2024."]


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