This lecture is part of the Divine Disorder Conference held February 24-26, 2015.
Revival: Bringing back to life the Art Environment of Howard Finster by Jordan Poole
This paper will discuss the process of much of the Preservation process and theory that was used to rehabilitate Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden into the hinge pin of a community Creative Placemaking initiative.
Howard Finster, the creator of the site Paradise Garden, may very well be the most well know modern folk artist of the 20th Century. The culmination of his artistic genius was a visual art site shown to the world by R.E.M’s first music video, Radio Free Europe and an appearance with Howard Finster on the Johnny Carson Show. Sadly, toward the end of Howard’s life and career, the historic site began to fall into disrepair as his health declined. After Howard’s death in October of 2001 the site stayed open and was maintained for almost a decade. The sites importance and deteriorated state influenced it to be listed on the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2010 Places in Peril listing. In 2010 a potential for the local government of Chattooga County to buy the property from the then owning not for profit organization that had originally been started by Howard Finster’s youngest daughter became a possibility through a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). In December of 2011, with $125,000 in ARC grant money and private donations, Chattooga County purchased the Garden. The ARC had made as a stipulation of federal funds that there be the creation of a site management plan that would guide the transition of ownership and help to implement proven successful restoration activities.
Today, much of the site has been transformed by the Paradise Garden Foundation, from a site that had no running water or electricity in 2012, to a viable tourist destination. In October of 2013 the Paradise Garden Visitor Center was formally opened providing a point of reception out of an adaptive rehabilitated building that was once used by the artist as his art studio. The main structures all have been successfully stabilized and water drainage issues have been for the most part been resolved with implemented better drainage and implemented maintenance strategies.
The presentation will illustrate the unique process bringing back to life what CNN called in 2014 “The South’s most Inspired Garden”.
Jordan H. Poole is the Executive Director of the Paradise Garden Foundation and is a native of Chattooga County. He holds both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Historic Preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design. He is also the Board Chair for the Chattooga County Chamber of Commerce. He brings experience in historic preservation to Paradise Garden from his past experience working at George Washington’s Mount Vernon where he served as Manager of Restoration and also his role with the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation assisting over 40 of the top endangered sites throughout the State of Georgia.