Bernd Park celebrated its new look in October after a nearly two-year expansion and improvement project.
The park, located at the corners of Cherry, New and Magnolia streets, had been in disrepair for quite some time.
Alexis Gregg and Tanner Coleman, owners of AnT Sculpture and Design, spearheaded the community-led and funded project.
“A friend and also a neighbor of this area, Carey Pickard, pointed out this park as kind of an eyesore and as underused and underserved,” Gregg said. “It was in the Macon Action Plan to redevelop this park, as well as add more public art in town, so we chose this location to redesign.”
Gregg said the goal of the park is to provide families with (or without) children an accessible outdoor area with public art.
“We wanted to create something that wasn’t just a playground, but a place where the neighborhood felt like they could come and have a picnic here, they could come and sit here,” Gregg said.
For Gregg and Coleman, the beginning of taking on a public art project like this starts with a conceptual stage including time spent on research. It was important for the work to reflect the culture and architecture of the area where it was located, Gregg said.
“We want it to feel appropriate for its permanent location,” Gregg said. “... We looked a lot at the Hay House and the surrounding brick colors that are in this area.”
AnT designed and installed sculptures at the park including an archway that doubles as a picture frame, a boat, a lily flower and lily pad, a bridge that serves as a slide and a duck. Other additions to the park include stairs into the park, a refurbished swing set and improved signage.
A majority of the funding for the park came from two Downtown Challenge grants totaling $104,000. The Downtown Challenge Fund of the Community Foundation of Central Georgia was created with funding from the Peyton Anderson Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. In addition to the Downtown Challenge grants, private donors contributed to the park project.
Coleman said that he hopes to see members of the community embrace the park and make it their own.
“This is the city’s property, you know, it’s a public park. I want people to be aware of it and come and use it. The more people that know about this place and come and use it the better it serves the community,” Coleman said.
The public art will not only be enjoyable but might teach visitors something, too.
“We both did a lot of volunteer work with communities that are underserved and found that when you put art in public places, people experience art on a daily basis in a different way,” Gregg said. “It’s a way for people to learn more about artistic spaces and artists and ways of working with materials.”
The Bernd Park project was the first time AnT was able to install so many pieces in one space.
And they aren’t finished with local projects anytime soon. AnT is working on another piece for the arts and science museum, which will join the two already there.
“There’s a lot of spaces in Macon that we would love to collaborate with community stakeholders and get some work to beautify,” Coleman said. “The neighborhood, the people that are going to experience this work the most, have been so happy with our work and appreciative and excited.”