People in your neighborhood: Diirga Brough

By David Terraso

Diirga Brough is a man of many talents who has lived in Candler Park since 1975. I have no idea how he’d feel about the term “renaissance man,” but in my opinion it fits him to a T. He grew up in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and moved to Atlanta to attend the Atlanta School of Art, which is now incorporated into the Savannah College of Art and Design. He owns the building at McClendon and Oakdale that houses the Marie Marie Salon and Indie Craft Experience. He also runs Gravity Graphics Signs and teaches under the names Laughing Dragon Tai Chi, Laughing Dragon Swords and Laughing Dragon Summer Camp.

DT: How did you end up coming to Candler Park?1601 piyndiirgabroughfoto

DB: One of my claims to fame was I was the first paid employee of Sevananda Natural Foods. We brought Sevananda to the neighborhood in 1975. We had a store at Emory and it was time to leave, so I came through this neighborhood and said, “I bet the rent is cheap here.”

DT: Tell us about your artwork.

DB: As a freelance artist I get to experiment. I ‘ve painted signs for forty years. I will always paint signs. I’m one of the last hand-letterers. The Gilded Angel and  Candler Park Flowers are two of my favorites.

Another quirky thing I do is paint Christmas windows; Zesto’s is one. I decorate on the outside for Christmas and then they scrape it off after Christmas. I have about a dozen clients. I do it because I love it.  

I also do signs for the Neon Company. He’ll bring something to me and say, “I want this to look old.” So I make them look old and handmade .

DT: How did you become interested in signs?

DB:  From my dad, he was a graphics design professor at the University of Alabama  and I watched him paint signs and he taught me the basics.

DT: You also teach Tai Chi?

DB: Teaching and practicing Tai Chi is a deep personal artistic experience for me.  I teach private classes. That gives me a learning environment that is unique to each individual. I like to say, “Breathing is the most important thing I teach.”

DT: Tell us about the swords.

DB: Part of classical Tai Chi is sword. I designed  a padded sword, so we could fight full speed .  I spent a number of years developing them and I have a friend who makes them for me.  

When my son was five-ish, I watched him and his friends go crazy with the swords and I thought this is really cool. So I started doing a sword fighting program with kids. I used to do it after school. So I have this whole generation of kids who’ve done sword fighting with me. It’s free-style sword fighting. If they want to be a Jedi, they get to be a Jedi. If they want to clobber, they get to clobber. Whatever they want to do, I cater to it because there is no one thing. It’s a lot of fun. It’s very universal; kids of all ages love it. I just put the sword in their hands and say “ GO”.

DT: And you have a camp?

DB: I was with Circus Camp for many years, I hung out with all the circus talent and picked up a lot of skills. About ten years ago I put that together with sword fighting and started  Laughing Dragon Summer Camp . I run camp for one month in June. Right now I’ve had the same group of kids for three years. It’s great, I only want eight kids, not 24.

DT: You’ve lived in Candler Park for a long time, so I’m guessing you’re a fan?

DB: I think we’re the luckiest people because there’s no place like this. There’s friendliness, walkability, we’re a great community. When I go to our neighborhood meetings and events I feel proud.

 If anyone wants to get in touch with me about any of my services, please do at Diirga@LDswords.com.

What’s in store for Candler Park Golf Course?

By David Terraso

According to the city, American Golf has managed and operated the city’s five public golf courses for the past 30 years. With that contract about to expire in April 2016, Atlanta has issued a request for proposal (RFP) to find a company to run three of those courses, Browns Mill, North Fulton and Tup Homes. A second RFP is set to be issued for the management of Candler Park Golf Course and Bobby Jones Golf Course.

 

Parks and Recreation Commissioner Amy Phuong said she felt that splitting the contracts for managing the courses would allow the city to make some improvements to them.1601 golfcoursefoto

    

“For Candler Park, in particular, we thought there was a great opportunity to manage it based on our observations and we thought it was best to split the golf courses as such,” explained Phuong.

    

In terms of generating revenue, the city’s top courses are North Fulton and Bobby Jones, while the nine-hole Candler Park course has a history of not being as lucrative. The course came into being when Coca-Cola founder Asa Candler donated the 55 acres that became Candler Park  to the city in 1922. The story goes he hired landscape architect Helen Smith to design the course for his daughter because the Druid Hills golf club wouldn’t allow women to play.

    

In order to discuss the RFP process for the neighborhood’s course, Phuong met with three representatives from Candler Park last month: Zaid Duwayri, current president of the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization (CPNO); Ken Edelstein, president of CPNO in 2015 and member of the Candler Park Conservancy; and Stacy Funderburke, chair of the Candler Park Conservancy.

    

“I think this is an ideal opportunity for the conservancy to play a role in improving our community,” said Edelstein, who was speaking as an individual rather than CPNO or the conservancy. “The conservancy could set up a taskforce or committee that includes other organizations or neighbors to help improve this community asset.”

    

The course has a few characteristics that make it unusual among Atlanta’s golfing grounds. First wetlands that run through it are home to beavers, a resource that many in the neighborhood have been committed to protecting. Second, it’s the city’s only nine-hole public course.

    

“We want the new company to understand the interaction of the course and the wetlands,” said Funderburke. “It is unusual to have a natural habitat and a restored stream in the middle of a public city golf course, so we want to make sure the company that takes this on respects that and understands the unique aspects of the course.”

    

The new RFP provides an opportunity for the both the neighborhood and the conservancy to have a seat at the table about residents and players vision for the course.

    

“We can start the dialogue on the future vision of the golf course and surrounding area – and work in coordination with the conservancy to get a consensus on what we feel is a good future state of the course,” said Duwayri.

    

One important question for those groups to ask is who do they want the course to be maintained in the future? Do they want to improve it beyond the status quo, he added.

    

Last year the current vendor, American Golf, was accused by some friends of the park for using heavy equipment in the wetlands.

    

“That’s an obvious role for the conservancy to play to make sure the folks running it are not only doing a good job maintaining the course, but also respect the wetlands and other parts of the park,” said Funderburke.

    

Edelstein said for him it’s important that we use this opportunity for the community (both Candler Park and the surrounding neighborhoods) to ensure that the city does two things. The first is to do no harm to the existing resource, which includes the wetlands, beavers and the course itself. The second is to partner with the community in an open, inclusive and creative process to improve the course, he said.

    

“The conservancy wants to stay at the table during the conversation about who will run the golf course,” added Funderburke. “We want to have conversations with the city while they are evaluating the RFP.”

    

“I think we’re always looking to improve upon what we’re doing,” said Phuong. “We think this is a great opportunity to ensure that the management and accountability at Candler and our other assets across the city are being maintained. What’s great about an expiring contract is it gives us that opportunity.”