News: Falcons hire SCAD to artify Mercedes-Benz Stadium

Rendering of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, designed by 360 Architecture.
Rendering of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, designed by 360 Architecture.
Rendering of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, designed by 360 Architecture.
Rendering of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, designed by 360 Architecture.

Atlanta Falcons Stadium Company, developer and operator of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, has announced that Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) has been selected to oversee the stadium’s art program.

“We will have an iconic building that begs for interesting compelling art,” says Penelope McPhee, president of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.

The SCAD team — headed by John Paul Rowan, vice president for strategy and innovation, and Laurie Farrell, executive director of exhibitions — will commission, acquire and place art and memorabilia for the two-million-square-foot facility in concert with an internal committee composed of Arthur Blank, McPhee, members of the Falcons,Atlanta United FC and others. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Art projects of this size and specificity are typically handled by specialized art consultants. The committee solicited presentations by national firms who had stadium experience but came up empty. “The presentations were great but didn’t feel like our statement,” says McPhee.

French artist Daniel Buren as commissioned to create "Unexpected Variable Configurations: A Work in Situ" for the Dallas Cowboys' stadium.
French artist Daniel Buren as commissioned to create “Unexpected Variable Configurations: A Work in Situ” for the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium.

Nor did the existing stadiums they toured provide a model. The AT&T Stadium in Dallas, which is known for its art, was like a museum, says McPhee. “We were impressed, but we are not creating a museum.”

Rather, the goal is to create an interactive experience in which the architecture, art and game are integrated into the total experience. Says McPhee, “We want to inspire awe and wonder.”

It was Blank Foundation board member Kenny Blank who suggested SCAD. Although the school had not done a stadium art installation before, it runs 14 gallery spaces around the world and had worked with the foundation in the past. More importantly, SCAD’s presentation was convincing.

“We were blown away by their capacity, enthusiasm and knowledge,” says McPhee. “We thought, ‘Everything else we’ve done has been risky, why not take another risk?’”

SCAD is still in the R&D phase. It has surveyed the members of the internal committee about their art likes and dislikes, and it has queried fans — at games and from the subscribers list — about themes and the kinds of art forms they find resonant. And it is getting to know the building.  Says SCAD’s Rowan, “The development team has brought us into the planning. We are currently going through the building to see where art can be best utilized… Site-specific commissions [likely for exterior public spaces] have first priority because they require a longer lead time.”

McPhee acknowledges that it’s a high-pressure timeline. “Arthur wants all the art in place when we open in spring 2017. He doesn’t want it to look like he’s still decorating his house.”

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