Our Stories

Art for All in Suwanee

Art. It moves people. It changes towns. It mesmerizes children. It compels businesses to change their name. And it’s what caused the City of Suwanee to open a fund at the Community Foundation.

But to understand the present, let’s go back to the past. When Nick Masino, now president and CEO of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce, served as mayor of Suwanee he charged the team leading Suwanee to make public art a priority.

It wasn’t a hard sell for Assistant City Manager Denise Brinson.

“I had just taken my kids on a trip out West and when we came back I asked them what they remembered. To my surprise, every place they talked about had public art. One talked about the ‘spinning rock’ art in Boulder, Colorado, another talked about the Jackson Hole, Wyoming arches that were made of antlers,” Brinson said. “The art made the trip even more memorable for them.”

Brinson was on board and soon the rest of the city bought into the idea of public art. That was in 2007. In 2008, the city launched a successful public art initiative when it created its Public Arts Commission and also adopted a policy of encouraging developers to include public art in their projects (and pledged the city to do the same). Today, art is part of Suwanee’s culture. Since those early days, the city has welcomed over a dozen artworks placed by developers on their properties, implemented a public art master plan, and is now expanding its public art pieces through the Town Center Park expansion.

“We do a citizen survey every three years and we’ve discovered that 86 percent of people move here because of Suwanee’s community vibe – and art plays a large role in that,” Brinson said. “We have companies like Salude, who changed their name to ‘Salude – the Art of Recovery’ to reflect the importance of art in people’s lives. Pulte Homes – they had never considered public art before but agreed to participate when we asked and put three bronze horses in front of one of their subdivisions. It made such an impact that now they are adding public art to some of their higher-end developments throughout the nation.”

When the city decided to expand Suwanee’s Town Center Park, it decided to also expand the public art pieces in the park, as a matter of policy. Suwanee will use private funding for those new pieces – $1.25 million to be exact. Enter the Community Foundation for Northeast Georgia.

“We decided to partner with the Community Foundation and house Suwanee’s Art for All capital campaign dollars with them for several reasons,” Brinson said. “One, the Community Foundation gives us credibility in the philanthropic world and when we say we’re partnering with them it erases any questions people may have about whether this is a legitimate effort. Second, their professional assistance, partnered with their knowledge about philanthropy and giving, has been incredibly helpful. The fact that we don’t have to create a foundation on our own is huge. They have handled all the paperwork, details and so much more and also enabled us to accept matching funds through corporations, which has been invaluable. They have just made it so easy to create a foundation and raise funds.”

The city announced officially announced the Art for All campaign earlier this year and has already received incredible support from the Community. Quantum Bank stepped up and gave a lead gift of $100,000 and community members like Susan and Keith Costley, the first individuals to donate, have also supported the campaign.

“When you visit Gwinnett, Suwanee’s Town Center and its public art will be one of the things you remember. This park expansion and additional art will positively impact Gwinnett as a whole.” Brinson said. “Public art enhances the culture of a community; it’s timeless, impacts generations, and is accessible to everyone.”

To discover more about Suwanee’s Art for All Campaign, visit suwanee.com/explore-suwanee/public-art or watch www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRIMCBu5FjE.

To donate, visit Suwanee Art for All Campaign.