For the Westobou Festival this year, Artists Row Chairwoman Lisa Marks wanted to do something bold, something that would bring people together.
She asked each of her annual college scholarship applicants to submit a sketch for a piece of public artwork that could be built during the festival.
After a few revisions, Augusta State University fine arts freshman Sara Mays’ idea stuck – a massive, snaking serpent.
During the first week of the Westobou Festival, Artists Row is asking the public to help them build a 72-foot-long, 3-D dragon they’ll name ARTie The Garden City’s Green Dragon. Using all recycled materials and the hands of volunteers, ARTie is meant give all types of people a chance to participate in art.
“I believe strongly that art is for everybody,” Marks said. “You don’t have to have a lot of education in art to appreciate it. Art is to enjoy. We wanted to create something that would be fun for young and old alike.”
Volunteers will start building the dragon with chicken wire as its frame. For ARTie’s scales and skin, they will weave plastic grocery bags, soda and water bottles and spray-paint cans along the wire.
All building will take place at the old Richmond Academy property at 504 Telfair St.
As planned in Mays’ sketch, ARTie’s back will arch over the sidewalk at the front of the building and curve over on each side.
“I really thought with the dragon idea, people would respond positively to it,” Mays said. “It will be fun.”
Mays, 19, said she has been creating art since she was young, but has never done anything as big as this.
Because of ARTie’s size, Marks said she still needs donations of material and volunteers to sign up for building shifts.
“We really need all the help we can get with this,” Marks said.
After ARTie is completed, Artists Row will hold a benefit auction on Oct. 6 at the site.
Marks asked ASU graduate Andrea Mortimer to sculpt a miniature replica of ARTie, meant to be used as a garden ornament.
After an evening of food from Rooster’s Beak and an art bar, Artists Row will auction off the sculpture along with a piece of Marks’ art, gift certificates to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and Oddfellow’s Art Gallery and more in the package.
Marks said she hopes this project will be one step in growing the sense of community in downtown Augusta.
Oftentimes, it takes a catalyst like an art project to do so.
In building a 72-foot dragon from plastic and wire, she hopes the downtown might grow a bit as well.
“There’s this incredible potential in Augusta,” Marks said. “I know from experience that art really is a key component in the revitalization of downtowns.”