To longtime Augusta resident Geraldine Rinker, the city is represented by beautiful flowers, historic architecture, and a renowned medical college. She hopes any one of these themes is the focus of a new sculpture slated for a gateway into Augusta.

“I voted for ’garden/plants/flowers and trees,’ because we’re the Garden City in the South…’historic buildings’ because that’s something a little bit different than you might find other places,…and ’medicine’ because I’m a retiree from the medical college,” said Rinker, who has lived in Augusta for 77 years.

Locals like Rinker were invited to vote Thursday on their top three choices to be represented by new gateway sculptures at Riverwatch Parkway and along Sand Bar Ferry Road. The most popular choices for the Riverwatch sculpture were ‘river/canal/Savannah Rapids,’ ’golf’ after The Master’s, and ’music’ after historical figures Jessye Norman and James Brown. Other possible choices included ’wildlife’ after Augusta’s collection of native creatures, ’mills’ after historic mills like Enterprise and Sibley, ’cyber’ after the Georgia Cyber Center and the Army Cyber Center of Excellence, and ’education’ after renowned schools like Augusta University and Medical College of Georgia.

The most popular choices for the Sand Bar project were ’colonial significance of Augusta’ after the signers of the Declaration of Independence, George Walton and Lyman Hall, who are buried in Augusta; ’ferries of Augusta’ after the Savannah River, and ’military’ and ’river/canal’ after the Savannah River and the Augusta Canal, which tied for third. Other possible choices included ’musical heritage,’ ’Savannah River Site: Plutonium, Cold War, Disarmament,’ ’Old Town Neighborhood,’ ’Augusta’s interfaith community’ after the diverse belief systems that make up Augusta’s community, ’lost neighborhood names’ after past neighborhoods like Frog Hollow and Springfield Village, and ’plants & flowers’ after the Garden City.

Augusta native Wesley L. Stewart has a few personal favorites, but hopes the one chosen makes everyone happy with the final product.

“I feel that ’golf,’ and ’flowers,’ and ’music’ really hit more home to Augusta,” Stewart said. “I think if you hire the right people, and the right people are involved in the process that are invested and have the outlook of community at large, the individuals, the city…in the end, they have the best interest.”

There were proposals in November for two abstract designs for the Gateway Project, but they were widely panned. The Greater Augusta Arts Council’s executive director Brenda Durant said Thursday that it’s important the public is aware of the message of gateway art.

“It says welcome, it says we are a town that supports creativity, it says we’re cool, it says we’re a great place to live,” she said.

The sculptures will be simple in design, will not be things to stop and take pictures in front of, will be between 15 to 20-foot tall, non-reflective, able to withstand 100 mph winds. Durant said the sculptures will be like billboards: people should be able to see them while driving and understand them within six seconds.

Thursday’ vote will be used to give the council an idea of what directions to take, Durant said.

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