Fred Ajanogha has been quietly but conspicuously beautifying a forlorn section of the Atlanta Belt-line’s western loop. The College Park -based Nigerian artist and sculptor was commissioned to embellish the perimeter of a massive paved lot at 352 University Avenue SW near the Pittsburgh community. The lot is owned by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and is currently used as a practice driving course for city of Atlanta firefighters and bus drivers.
Ajanogha’s installation consists of three 20-feet by 6 –feet cement panels containing “high relief” images, meaning at least 50 percent of the depth is visible. The panels represent the past, present and future of the Pittsburgh community. Four sculpted three-dimensional geomet-ric shapes (an egg, a cube) augment the work.
Pittsburgh is a little leery of public artworks. A controversy erupted recently when a Living Walls mural was painted on a retaining wall near the community without the residents’ input. Outraged at what they considered to be inappropriate art, a group of residents painted over the work. Ajanogha has worked hard to regain their trust.
We spoke by phone.
Q: How did you get this gig?
Ajanogha: There was an internet application process and I was one of five finalists. We had to meet with community residents, and I was selected. I saw this as an opportunity to uplift a commu-nity. It definitely was not about money!
Q: How did you approach your theme of past, present and future?
Ajanogha: I researched Pittsburgh’s history and talked to longtime residents. One recalled a gong [bell] being played as a musical instrument. That is depicted on one of the panels. I also dis-covered that kite flying was a popular pastime, so I sculpted a lady flying kites.
Q: What does the future hold for Pittsburgh?
Ajanogha: Education is always the key to a vibrant future. That is why the final panel has sculp-tures of school buses and students in classrooms.
Q: What has been the community’s reaction to your work?
Ajanogha: An amazing outpouring of blessings and support. University Avenue is a very busy street; people stop and talk to me all the time. They bring me food and drink.
Q: What have been your main influences as an artist?
Ajanogha: In Nigeria, art is used to record an event in history. Its purpose is to tell a story. That is what influences my art. When you see my art, you get the message. You don’t have to ask what it means.
Learn more at www.ajanoart.com