To keep people focused on the BeltLine vision, in 2010 Fred Yalouris came up with the idea of Art on the BeltLine, an annual event to put temporary sculpture, mosaics, paintings, and other art onto the future corridor. To kick off the event, New Orleans transplant Chantelle Rytter proposed a lantern parade, luring 50 people with home-made lanterns onto the muddy, weedy trail at night in a glorious, ghostly procession. “Atlanta needed to believe that the creepy place behind the dumpsters would become our country’s best urban renewal project,” she recalled. The BeltLine Lantern Parade would become an annual tradition, with thousands more participating each year.
Art on the BeltLine was a hit, luring people onto the trails, with young artists vying to win space for each year’s exhibits. By the third year there were nearly 200 submissions from graffiti artists, sculptors, painters, performers, and dancers. Even though there was no official paved path, people walked their dogs, did yoga, and spread picnics near the art installations. Still, the program annoyed some residents. “The painted junk cars are completely vandalized and homeless live in them,” complained one Atlanta resident months after the first exhibits. “Get rid of them.”
To encourage community involvement and ownership of the trail, the Beltline Partnership, in conjunction with Park Pride, asked local businesses and residents to “adopt” a portion of the corridor, removing kudzu and trash, mowing grass, and reporting suspicious activities. The BeltLine also sponsored five-kilometer and longer runs along the West End, Tanyard Park, and Piedmont Park trails, with prizes, gift certificates, and other activities, though the events focused on community over competition.