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

By Howard Pousner
hpousner@ajc.com

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

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. Details: http://www.artplaceamerica.org/articles/artplace-announces-47-new-grants/

Here’s a link to a detailed story that appeared in the AJC in April on the project: http://www.ajc.com/lifestyle/resurrection-of-finsters-paradise-1427896.html

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