Charles Wren pulled into the Old Medical College of Georgia on Telfair Street for his maintenance job Monday morning and had to do a double take. Over the brick wall to his left, in front of the Old Academy of Richmond County building, was a massive, shining serpent slithering along the ground.
“I had no idea what it was, so I had to walk over here and find out,” Wren said.
To celebrate public art during the Westobou Festival, Artists Row has been building ARTie the Garden City’s Green Dragon: a 72-foot-long dragon made out of recyclable materials. By the fourth day of building Monday, more than 130 volunteers had helped weave thousands of plastic bags and bottles along ARTie’s body to bring the dragon to life.
With two more days of building to go, Artists Row Chairwoman Lisa Marks said the dragon is almost complete, with just a few scales along the top of his body and neck to be added. ARTie’s design was sketched by Augusta State University student Sara May and built by volunteers of all ages and with all levels of art experience.
The volunteers started with a base of chicken wire to mold the shape of the dragon’s body. They weaved plastic bags through the wire as scales and pushed plastic bottles along the top of the body for his spine.
Marks picked up a rusted 1948 Chevrolet panel truck at Carolina Import Auto Salvage and used it as ARTie’s head. Volunteers painted the sides of the truck and used round electrical spools as eyes with old Volkswagen hubcaps as eyeballs.
“People are excited,” Marks said. “People walking by are stopping to take photos in front of ARTie. The volunteers are saying, ‘I just wanted to be able to say I helped build ARTie.’ ”
Besides the fun of building a 72-foot dragon, Marks said, another goal has been accomplished. She created the project to bring the community together through art and show people that it’s not necessary to have a lifetime of art experience to create art.
“All different types of people have come together to do this project,” Marks said. “Kids, adults, homeless. Everyone.”
ARTie’s completion will be celebrated Thursday with an art bar and auction in front of the Old Richmond Academy. The auction will give away items including a miniature garden ornament replica of ARTie, a piece of Marks’ art, and gift certificates to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta and Oddfellow’s Art Gallery.
As for ARTie’s fate, Marks said she is finding out how long after Westobou that ARTie can stay on Old Richmond Academy’s lawn. After that, he’ll be dissembled and recycled.
That’s not what most were thinking about Monday, though.
Timeka Martin took about 15 members of ACCENT, a community integration program for special-needs adults, to the lawn to help build ARTie. ACCENT member Timothy Moore was twisting plastic bags around the chicken wire before he stood back to look at his progress.
“It’s a really unique thing,” said Moore, 29. “I’m going to have to come back and see it when it’s all done.”