Atlanta has statues of historical figures and athletes commemorated across the city, sculptures of fearsome falcons guarding stadiums and modern art dotting beltlines and sidewalks. As far as art goes, the Peach State has, somehow, lacked just that.
“We’re a city of peaches, but there is no art of any peach here in Atlanta,” said Gary P. Stokan.
For an in-depth look into the making of the Modern Peach, look for the upcoming September issue of 400-The Life
magazine in the Forsyth County News.
Stokan explained the city’s now-precluding predicament Friday evening as he stood next to a 27-foot stainless steel creation of a peach, displayed in the Georgia World Congress Courtyard facing the CNN building for the first time. As the curves of the sculpture’s arches and pointed tips of the leaves reflected the softening, sinking sun, fans adorned in variations of red, from Florida State University garnet to Alabama crimson, walked by, stared and pointed up.
The president and CEO of Peach Bowl Inc., announced the dedication of the Modern Peach it commissioned from Forsyth-based artist Gregory Johnson, whose nearly 1,000 sculptures can be seen in downtown Cumming, throughout Forsyth County, across Georgia and over the globe, before college football kicked off Saturday and before the Peach Bowl began its year-long celebration of 50th anniversary.
From conception to installation, the peach – the largest undertaking Johnson has ever created – took two years to come to fruition, and Johnson, the brainchild and artist behind its Chicago-bean-like finish and its peach-red lights reflecting upward, is the first to prefer humility over the spotlight.
“It has been an amazing journey. I will have to tell you that even though [Stokan] gives me all the credit, I have an amazing team that I had the privilege to work with,” Johnson said. “About 175 artisans and engineers and people have touched this peach so that we could design it, create it, build it and install it.”
On top of being the tallest project Johnson has created, it also stands to be the most visible. In just its first weekend in its new home, the peach saw passersby from the Alabama-FSU game and the Georgia Tech-Tennessee game in the new Mercedes-Benz stadium and the science fiction festival DragonCon that brings thousands to downtown Atlanta each year.
A seemingly simple champagne toast for the dedication of one piece of art brought the likeness of officials from the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference, Alabama and FSU’s presidents and top heads from the College Football Playoff, ESPN and Lions Club.
“[Former University of Georgia coach] Vince Dooley called me and said, ‘Gary, you gotta meet this guy. He’s got a unique idea,’” Stokan said of Johnson.
Johnson’s vision was to create a modern piece that will become an icon of Atlanta and Georgia.
The thousand-times-polished metal can be stepped up to for pictures and selfies, five tons of clean and clear stainless steel.
“We’ve never done anything this complicated,” Johnson said. “I hope people will love it and embrace it, that it will become iconic, it will become a symbol. That people will talk about it like, ‘hey, have you seen the giant peach?’ … With all my artwork, I want it to be an inspiration. I want it to bring a smile to your face. I want it to have the ‘wow factor’ where you round the corner and you go, ‘my gosh, look at that.’”