Even if you haven't heard of Steffen Thomas, perhaps you've seen his work: his sculpture “The Trilon,” which is prominently displayed at 15th and Peachtree in Midtown.
Thomas did public art commissions for much of his career in Atlanta, but “The Trilon” was his gift to the city and situated him as one of the great pioneers of public art in Atlanta.
“The Trilon sculpture being gifted to the city was basically a testament to who he was and how important he thought public art was to transforming the people who viewed it,” said Kevin Sipp, curator of Gallery 72, in an interview with Lois Reitzes.
Thomas is being commemorated for his many contributions to public art in a series of programming this summer, hosted by the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs and the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art.
Born in Germany, Thomas moved to the United States, inspired by the cowboy stories of the time. He landed in Atlanta in 1930 and lived here until his death in 1990. His many adventures included creating an alternative sculpture to the confederate monument on the side of Stone Mountain, adopting a lion cub from the Atlanta Zoo and hanging out with Atlanta notables like Margaret Mitchell.
His daughter, Lisa Conner, was the recipient of many of these stories growing up along with the philosophy behind her father’s work.
“He was kind of philosopher himself. He studied all the great philosophers and religions of the world and they played, a tremendous part in his work,” she said. “He also admired strong women and whenever he could, he would put a strong women in the middle of whatever he was doing.”
The Steffen Thomas programming kicks off this Saturday with a Plein Air invitational at the Trilon sculpture. The rest is listed below:
- June 8 – June 28: "Steffen Thomas: A Legacy in Atlanta" opens at Gallery 72. It features art created by the participants in the Plein Air event and a selection of Steffen Thomas' art.
- June 17: Steffen Thomas public art tour from -10 a.m. until noon. The tour begins at the Goethe Institute in Colony Square Mall.
- June 27: A public art panel discussion addressing "Steffen Thomas and the Impact of Public Art" at Gallery 72 at 7 p.m.
- August 24 - September 30: "Steffen Thomas: A Legacy in Atlanta," moves to the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art Buckhead.