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Woodruff to commemorate 50th anniversary of Orly tragedy with free arts events

By Howard Pousner

A day of wrenching — and ultimately galvanizing — loss for Atlanta occurred nearly 50 years ago, when a plane carrying 122 of the city’s arts patrons crashed at Paris’ Orly Airport.

On June 3, the Woodruff Arts Center, which traces its roots to the largest response to that unthinkable loss, will commemorate those Atlantans who perished with a day full of free arts offerings from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Tuesday, the Woodruff announced a Community Day slate open to the public at the Midtown Arts Center involving all four of its divisions:

  • A reading of Pearl Cleage’s “Wish You Were Here” – a poem written for the anniversary – at the Alliance Theatre, which will also host acting workshops and performances of “The Tranquil Tortoise and the Hoppity Hare.”
  • “Driving Miss Daisy” playwright and Atlanta native Alfred Uhry will participate in a Q&A. The latest play by the Tony Award, Academy Award and Pulitzer Prize recipient, “Apples & Oranges,” based on the book by Marie Brenner, will premiere at the Alliance in October.
  • An “Instrument Petting Zoo” presented by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
  • Free admission to the High Museum, which will offer family art workshops.
  • Children’s programs including storytelling, puppet shows, a community art project, multicultural music and more by Young Audiences. It will also present a reading of “The Story of Orly” by Barry Stewart Mann.
  • Visitors to the High also will be able to view “Allegory of the State of France Before the Return from Egypt” by Jean-Pierre Franque, a painting never before shown in the U.S., on loan from the Louvre in Paris to commemorate the anniversary. The gesture echoes the French government’s loan of famous paintings from the Louvre to Atlanta in 1963 to honor Orly crash victims.

The 122 Atlantans who lost their lives a half-century ago were part of a European arts tour planned by the Atlanta Art Association. The tragedy brought together the city to raise funds to build the Memorial Arts Center — now the Memorial Arts Building and part of the expanded Woodruff Arts Center campus.

Born out of the tragedy, the Woodruff has grown into the Southeast’s largest visual and performing arts center in the Southeast, serving more than 1.4 million people annually.

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