New arts organization – c4 Atlanta – to foster creative class and intown revival

By Saba Long

For two metro Atlanta natives, Jessyca Holland and Joe Winter, their employer’s downsizing forced them to the drawing board. Just hours after getting the boot, the two met for coffee and drafted a business plan for an arts services organization that we now know as c4 Atlanta.

The organization is one of nearly 2,000 cultural non-profits in metro Atlanta that generate more than $502 million in revenue, according to a recent Atlanta Regional Commission analysis. The Great Recession shook the foundation of many arts-related organizations with inevitable downsizing of programming and staff, and for some, shutting the doors.

“When we choose actions that bring happiness and success to others, the fruit of our karma is happiness and success,” a teacher once wrote.

Logo for c4 Atlanta

At its core, c4 Atlanta does just that as an incubator for the artist-entrepreneur. It provides sustainability through healthcare — as a participant in Kaiser Permanente’s bridge program, financial and business planning, and a coworking space for like minds to feed off one another’s creativity and energy.

Holland, executive director of the arts service organizations, says these services provide “cognitive therapy” for the artists — many of whom are mid-career and have experienced the highs and lows of pursuing their craft.

Just before Thanksgiving, c4 Atlanta signed a revenue-sharing lease in the historic M. Rich building at 82 Peachtree Street, just south of Five Points. Both founders attended Georgia State University and hope to cultivate downtown Atlanta into the next neighborhood to house the region’s creative class — a term made popular by social scientist Richard Florida.

The new residents of the M. Rich building are in the process of cultivating a tenant roster that taps into the talent, tolerance and technology downtown needs to sustain the artist-entrepreneur.

Through the City of Atlanta’s Power2Give, the Office of Cultural Affairs provided a crowd-funded marketplace that yielded 20 scholarships for Ignite, c4 Atlanta’s business development program.

Holland and Winter have a steady, conservative growth strategy for 2013 and beyond for their beloved nonprofit.

After the planned grand opening in late January, they have a series of programming events to implement as well as their first fundraising event.

Downtown neighbors and businesses — such as Central Atlanta Progress — have expressed their support and interest in seeing c4 Atlanta succeed. The growth of our creative class, and possibly the downtown urban core, depends on it.

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