William Massey

Local artist William Massey explains his process for using community history and input to design public art July 16 at City Hall. 

JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Designs are underway to create a gateway marker at Kimball Bridge Road at State Bridge Road, the west entry to Johns Creek. 

The Johns Creek Convention and Visitors Bureau has held two public input meetings on the topic, with another scheduled for July 25 at Park Place at Newtown School.

Creating artistic monuments at the east and west entrances to the city on State Bridge Road was the top request from the CVB when it came time hash out tourism product development spending. These projects are funded by the hotel/motel tax and allocated by state law for use on capital projects that appeal to visitors

A 2018 study by an outside travel consultant found gateways and signage was one of the key shortcomings of the city. Over nearly five months of negotiations with the City Council, the CVB has stood by its recommendation for gateways. 

Ultimately, in a 4-3 vote, the City Council allocated $64,000 to create a single marker at State Bridge and Kimball. If the project is deemed successful, it could lead to a series of gateways around the other entrances to the city

The visitors bureau partnered with Urban Catalyst Lab, a nonprofit that helps cities integrate art with urban planning. 

“We think that art is more than just beautification,” UCL co-founder and CEO Ruxanda Renita said. “It’s a change-bringer. It can bring people together and solve problems.”

The CVB previously partnered with UCL to design the Johns Creek Tunnel under Medlock Bridge Road. One of the artists on that project, William Massey, was brought back for the gateway project. 

“Massey is known for his unique approach to community art,” CVB Chair Lynda Lee Smith said. “He does not put ink to paper until he has listened intently to the community and has a clear understanding of what the community wants to represent them.”

That public input process has begun. Through a series of public input meetings, Massey and the UCL team have been asking the public questions like “How would you define your identity as a resident of Johns Creek?” “What are some symbols that resonate when you think of Johns Creek?” and “Are there any parts of Johns Creek history you feel are being lost during this period of transition for the area?”

With the answers from these questions and the discussion surrounding them, Massey will develop initial designs and then go back to the public with options. 

“I can promise you I will take all the feedback and digest it,” Massey said. “I’ll come back with a design that represents you, that you can stand by, and that is full of hope for the city.”

At the July 16 meeting, discussion centered on the lack of historic or iconic landmarks in the city. Though there was some consensus around the Chattahoochee River and other natural features, and pride in the schools, attendees struggled to put their understanding of the city into words. 

 “Every city is different,” Renita said. “In Johns Creek, it’s more about creating an identity and raising that identity.”

The third meeting will be Thursday, July 25 at 7 p.m. at Park Place at Newtown School, 3125 Old Alabama Road. All meetings will be video recorded and available online following the meeting on the CVB website, johnscreekcvb.com.

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