[quote]Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.[/quote]
Every city has a unique identity. That identity, that character is borne out of the values of the citizens that live there and manifests as a sort of cultural heart of the place. Often the heart is a geographical location -- a downtown or cultural epicenter of sorts -- but sometimes that heart is less literal. Sometimes you have to follow the pulse of the city to find it. Atlanta is a city that has a less defined center than some, but a look at the creative class is always a good place to start looking. Artists tap into a place’s spirit, expressing their experience of it through their work.
One doesn't have to wander far into the city of Atlanta to see a formidable art scene. A drive around town or a walk on the newly developed Beltline will highlight a lively graffiti, installation and street art culture. Atlanta recently hosted the first all-female Living Walls conference for lady muralists and graffiti artists from around the world gracing the sides of buildings, bridges and overpasses with their considerable talents.
Another character vein in any city is its food culture. It has been said that cooking is the only art that uses all five senses, but perhaps not enough is said about the art of eating, which is not unlike the appreciation of visual art. Perhaps this is why the best art of Atlanta isn't found in galleries or The High Museum. The avid art appreciator would be just as likely to feast their eyes on great original artwork while feasting on a delicious meal at one of Atlanta's many fantastic, nationally acclaimed restaurants. The restaurant scene in this Southern metropolis has grown a presence on the cultural landscape. Many Atlanta eateries boast celebrity chefs and owners, unique, eclectic menus or creative twists on traditional Southern cuisine.
In these days of The Food Network, and the mainstream adaptation of what were once strictly gourmet sundries (think Jack in the Box's ciabatta sandwiches or upscale Korean taco food trucks), eating requires a refined sensibility, an adventurous spirit and a desire to try new things or, as some might call it, an empty cup. A citizen of Atlanta dining in one of her many fine restaurants, can consider the work of a local artist and feel more connected to their community. Art ceases to be the province of a snotty intelligentsia, just as great cooking and dining out have ceased to be the domain of the white upper middle class. Good work, Atlanta. Hold that empty cup up, fill it with wine and toast yourself!
Combo Meals: A few great Atlanta restaurants that sport some amazing artwork.
H. Harper Station This converted train depot is the exact right blend of neighborhood bistro and date night destination. It's elegant yet warm interior is the perfect backdrop for large reclaimed railroad signs and gorgeous prints of old locomotives by Kevin Grigg, as well as a rustic, whimsical piece by Sarah Flinn. Whether attending the Reynoldstown Art Walk or just taking in the culture, be sure to stop by and try the shrimp & grits and the deviled eggs, as well as one of their many incredible prohibition style cocktails.
Two Urban Licks. The website advertises live music and “Fiery American Cooking” but the custom Todd Murphy that decorates a 20 foot high wall in the restaurant is as much of a draw for this Poncey Highlands spot. Mr. Murphy's rich, dreamy oil paintings can also be seen at La Pietra Cucina, an excellent Italian restaurant in Midtown.
Local favorite Homegrown may be just a diner, but they grow their own food and the support local artists like R. Land, among others, who is most well known for his “Pray for ATL” guerrilla art campaign. Land's image of two hands pressed together in prayer is almost as recognizable as Shepard Fairey's omnipresent Andre The Giant.
Is your city mixing food and visual culture in innovative ways? Tell us about it!