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Cut Here June 24, 2008

Posted by cbuchanan in Uncategorized.
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Saturday I went wandering around downtown. My first stop was the Birmingham Museum of Art to see the new exhibit “Contemporary Korean Prints: Kim Sangku.” I found it both inspiring and refreshing–a room full of bold, sometimes stark, but always vibrant woodblock prints of trees, birds, and abstract people. I especially liked Sangku’s black willow trees, blue birds, abstract orange forest, and the little black or white swans that would pop up to form patterns in some of his pieces. (I was also very much impressed that much of the exhibit came from local private collections. The museum site says that Sangku’s work is “relatively new” to the U.S., which means we have some keen-eyed international art buyers in this city!) The exhibit lasts through September 7.

Following that, I went on a photo safari around the 1st Avenue South Cut. This has to be one of the most interesting postindustrial sites in town, and I would love to have seen the neighborhood in its prime, when trains came barreling out of the ground and into the middle of traffic and a busy business district. That area is seeing some revitalization already, but the one big question has been what to do with that unusual, very prominent railroad cut.

The BhamWiki entry (via the link above) describes some ideas that have already been floated, but instead of filling it in (which would take TONS of dirt), I agree with the other concept that it should be preserved. And yes, it should certainly be a link between the Railroad Reservation Park and Sloss Furnaces. I would love to see it as a subterranean version of what New York City is doing with its old High Line railway–making it a trail, but a green space as well, basing the landscaping upon the plants that have naturally taken root there. Imagine walking or biking along a ribbon of wildflowers and grasses and colorful, fragrant plantings right in the middle of town, and you get the idea. I’d also like to see the bridges and the sides of the cut spruced up; it’s part of Birmingham’s railroad river, after all. And we could add public art and historical markers to the walls of the cut. (A few years ago, an art organization strung flags across the cut, and it looked good–like a place you’d want to explore.) Naturally, good lighting, good maintenance, and a good police presence would work wonders in helping people feel OK about checking it out.

If that cut becomes an intriguing, inviting place, the rest of the neighborhood will certainly see continued–and perhaps accelerated–development. What are your ideas for the cut and the 1st Ave. S. neighborhood?

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