Community Day at The Woodruff

Woodruff Orly Commeration

Sunday, June 3, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm
Free Admission


On Sunday, June 3, 2012, The Woodruff Arts Center and its divisions – the Alliance Theatre, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, High Museum of Art and Young Audiences – will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the tragedy at Orly Airport, which was the catalyst for the founding of The Woodruff.

People of all ages are welcome to enjoy the following free activities at Community Day:

  • An instrument petting zoo by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
  • Alliance Theatre reading of “Wish You Were Here” - a poem commissioned for this anniversary by the award winning author and playwright, Pearl Cleage - as well as acting workshops (click here to register ) and performances of “Waiting for Balloon.”
  • Admission to the High Museum of Art and an art workshop for the whole family. The High will also feature Jean-Pierre Franque's painting "Allegory on the state of France before the return of the Egyptian Campaign," on loan from Paris’ Louvre Museum for this anniversary.
  • Interactive performances and hands-on activities (storytelling, puppet shows, a community art project, multi-cultural music and much more) by Young Audiences.

Additionally, Atlanta native Alfred Uhry, the Tony Award, Academy Award and Pulitzer Prize recipient and author of “Driving Miss Daisy,” will participate in a special Q&A during Community Day. His new play “Apples & Oranges,” based on the book by Marie Brenner, will premiere at the Alliance Theatre in October.

Click Here for the Full Schedule of Activities(pdf) 

Special thanks to the following for making Community Day possible: Madeline and Howell Adams, Jr., The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Inc., The Coca-Cola Company, R. Howard Dobbs, Jr. Foundation, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment, Thomas H. Lanier Foundation, Lanier-Goodman Foundation, Katherine John Murphy Foundation, Oxford Industries, Inc., Olive and Roby Robinson Fund, Gertrude and William C. Wardlaw Fund and The Vasser Woolley Foundation.

Additionally, others in the community have shared their plans to commemorate the anniversary:

  • The Buckhead Heritage Society plans to show the documentary, “The Day Atlanta Stood Still”, on May 11th. Ann Abrams will sign her book, “Explosion at Orly: The Disaster that Transformed Atlanta.”
  • There will be a contemporary art exhibit of themes from Ann Abrams’ book at The Millennium Gate on May 12th.
  • The Atlanta History Center will exhibit “The Egg and I” by Helen Seydel, who perished in the crash.
  • GPB will air "The Day Atlanta Stood Still" on Wednesday, May 30th at 7:00 pm.

Please visit these organizations’ websites for more details.

About Orly

June 3, 1962

Orly Atlanta Art Association board members Raiford Ragsdale (l) and Ruth McMillan (r) posed at Lake Lucerne with Lydia Black (m) who helped plan the tour of European capitals. (Photo courtesy of the Atlanta History Center)

In the 1950s, a small number of Atlanta leaders believed that in order for Atlanta to compete with other international cities, they must encourage the growth of both the visual and performing arts. Enthusiasm for these efforts reached a peak in 1962, when 122 members and friends of the Atlanta Art Association traveled to Europe for a three-week arts tour. On June 3, 1962, these cultural and civic leaders boarded a plane prepared to return home to Atlanta. The plane crashed on takeoff at Orly Airport outside of Paris, France. Of the 132 people on board, all but two people perished – including all 122 Atlantans. Never had one city suffered such a terrible loss

As the shock of the tragedy began to ebb, the city considered how to properly memorialize the events of Orly. Rather than build separate homes for visual and performing arts, leaders envisioned a singular campus where a variety of art forms would exist together.

Orly Richard H. Rich (right), chair of the Atlanta Arts Alliance, and Charles Lucet, French ambassador to the United States, at the presentation of “The Shade” when the Memorial Arts Center opened in 1968. The French government donated this casting of Auguste Rodin’s piece in memory of the victims of the crash.

Committees were formed, citizens sent checks and the business community became involved for the first time. The Atlanta Arts Alliance was formed and an anonymous donor provided a $4 million gift. Many years later, that donor was revealed as the Woodruff Foundation, the incredible philanthropic organization established by Robert W. Woodruff, former CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, for whom our organization is now named. Now, 50 years after the crash at Orly, The Woodruff Arts Center is one of the largest centers of its kind in the nation, reaching 1.4 million people annually.

To learn more about the Orly crash and its impact, read "Explosion at Orly: The True Account of the Disaster that Transformed Atlanta" by Ann Uhry Abrams or view “The Day Atlanta Stood Still ” by Georgia Public Broadcasting.


Will there be food available for purchase? In addition to our regular offerings at Table 1280 Restaurant, High Café and CJ’s Coffee Cart at the High Museum of Art, a grilling station will be outdoors in the Sifly Piazza from 11:00 am – 2:00 pm with family favorites such as grilled cheese, chicken sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs, and Coke products. Additional food options (salads, sandwiches and snacks) will be sold inside the Memorial Arts Building during that same time.

Where should I park? To make your visit as easy as possible, please take MARTA. Parking in The Woodruff Deck will be between $15 - $20 the day of the event. Please click here to see parking options at The Woodruff and nearby garages.

How much is admission? Community Day is free!

Do I need to register? For planning purposes, we encourage people to register in advance. Registration details will be posted in early May. Please check back soon.