ELDER has two main phases: an open-air studio on the school site at the corner of Randolph Street and John Wesley Dobbs Avenue from January – February 2020 where lead artist Masud Olufani will work; and the installation of the finished sculpture in Freedom Park, across from the David T. Howard Middle School, from April – October 2020 in commemoration of the reopening of the school in the Old 4th Ward neighborhood.ELDER honors the senior members of the park’s surrounding community—both the people and the trees—for their stability, witnessing, and role in providing a foundation for future generations.
Seeds for ELDER were planted during the planned renovation of the David T. Howard High School site and its anticipated reopening as David T. Howard Middle School in August 2020 as a feeder school for Henry W. Grady High School. Original plans for the redevelopment of the site included the loss of 60 mature and historic trees on the property, including some more than a century old.
To address the loss of these trees, concerned neighborhood citizens initiated an appeal process—facilitated by Trees Atlanta—in which Atlanta Public Schools and project firms Stevens & Wilkinson and Lord Aeck & Sargent devised a revamped plan that ultimately resulted in the additional benefit of preserving several trees and increased capacity for public engagement via public art.
Masud Olufani is the lead artist for ELDER and will be transforming one of the removed trees, a 100-year American Elm, into a sculpture that incorporates the histories of David T. Howard High School, the senior members of the community, and the historical importance of trees to the Freedom Park community into a combined artistic narrative. Olufani, a graduate of Morehouse College with a Masters in Fine Art from Savannah College of Art and Design, is an Atlanta based mixed media artist whose studio practice is rooted in the discipline of sculpture. Click here to read the artist statement.
Originally opened in 1923 as an elementary school and converted to a high school in 1948, David T. Howard High School is named for David Tobias Howard, a former slave who owned Atlanta’s largest black-owned undertaking business and donated the original 7.5 acres for the school’s campus.
The school is important in Atlanta history as a reflection of the Old 4th Ward neighborhood, with graduates including Martin Luther King, Jr, Walt Clyde Frazier, Maynard Jackson, Lonnie King and many notable others. Since the closure of David T. Howard High School in 1976, the alumni have acted with pride and passion to preserve the legacy of this school and its place in the community. And now, as a new chapter of the site unfolds, these elders are committed to maintaining a presence in the school’s community of students and families going forward.
Along with engaging the Howard school alumni, ELDER will involve the seniors at the Helene S. Mills Senior Center, which will also serve as a convening location for collecting oral histories that will help inform Olufani’s work on the project.
Your support for ELDER helps grow public art in Freedom Park. You can make a donation by clicking here.
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