Paradise Garden Grants

June 1, 20120 Comments

Paradise Garden gets Appalachian Regional Commission Grant

The $115,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission that kick-started Chattooga County’s drive to purchase Paradise Garden fits with the agency’s mission to encourage community and economic development in isolated and needy areas. The county, one of Georgia’s poorest, would appear to be a poster child for need.  Unemployment in Chattooga — population 26,000 — was pushing 20 percent in the darkest days of the recession in 2008 and was at 18 percent when sole county commissioner Jason Winters took office a year later. Now, it’s down to 10.5 percent.  But even with things looking up, Winters said, he knows the county’s economy demands diversification to ensure a brighter future. That’s why he’s hopeful that Paradise Garden’s revival will boost heritage tourism in Chattooga, where two textile mills comprise the biggest industry, employing 2,600.  “This is just a very exciting project for our community,” Winters said. “There probably are some folks in the community who say, ‘Why do this?’ but a lot more people see the advantages.”
As evidence, he pointed out that the city and foundation raised $43,000 toward the purchase of the property and related expenses in just a month from 100 donors who gave from $5 to $5,000.  Tying Paradise Garden to economic development simply adds up, Winters is convinced. “Something that folks relate to,” he said, “is something that’s good for business.”

 

Finster’s Paradise Garden wins $445,000 restoration grant

Paradise Garden, the late Howard Finster’s northwest Georgia art environment, has been awarded a $445,000 grant, it was announced today.

Special The late artist Howard Finster seen in a rare moment of relaxation at his Paradise Garden.

The grant to Chattooga County, which purchased what is considered the prolific Finster’s greatest creation late last year, is from ArtPlace America, a new private-public partnership of top national foundations and banks and various federal agencies including the National Endowment for the Arts. ArtPlace’s mission is to “accelerate creative placemaking across the U.S.”

“It’s a WOW,” Janet Byington, board president of the Paradise Garden Foundation, e-mailed the AJC about the grant, the only one issued to a Georgia project.

Chattooga County envisions Paradise Garden, which had been decline and where visitation has fallen off sharply since Finster’s 2001 death, as a focal point of efforts to boost cultural tourism to one of Georgia’s poorest counties and its county seat, Summerville. The new nonprofit Paradise Garden Foundation signed a 50-year lease to help steer a multi-year restoration of Finster’s art environment.

“In partnership with the Paradise Garden Foundation, this grant will allow us to expedite our work at the Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden art environment as this site becomes a ‘go-to’ location for folk art enthusiasts from around the country,” Chattooga County’s sole commissioner Jason Winters said in a statement. “Our goal is to restore the garden to serve as a social, cultural, educational and artistic nexus for the benefit of Chattooga County and the northwest Georgia region.”

The Atlanta architecture firm Lord Aeck & Sargent recently completed a site management plan that will guide the multiyear restoration of Finster’s fragile art environment.

“This money will allow the Foundation to do most everything” called for in the plan, Byington said.

In April, the garden was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

In only its second round of grants, ArtPlace funded 47 projects totaling $15.4 million in cities and small towns across the country.

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