By Guest Columnist CAMILLE RUSSELL LOVE, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and producer of the annual ELEVATE Arts Festival
A great city offers not only excellent services and resources, but it also serves as a cultural hub. Arts and culture play vital roles in helping define and enhance the social fabric and the quality of life of its citizens and visitors.
With the various programs and events that the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs coordinates and produces, we continually work to inspire and educate people through the arts. Our mission is to create a welcoming and beautiful city that citizens can be proud of, to contribute to the city’s economy, and to put Atlanta on the map as a cultural tourism destination.
People who work downtown, or visit for concerts or events, have probably seen some of the statues, sculptures or fountains in the city. But many don’t realize that Atlanta’s Public Art Program preserves and maintains more than 135 large scale permanent public artworks throughout the city.
A little over four years ago, the Public Art Program started investigating how we could encourage people to explore downtown and appreciate the wealth of public art that Atlanta has to offer.
We wanted to create an event that would enliven downtown, be fun and create a vibrant atmosphere. At the same time, we took a hard look at areas of the city that were in need of some TLC. We explored ways we could reinvigorate interest in public art, revitalize areas that were underappreciated, and re-envision neglected or abandoned buildings through the lens of art.
That’s how the idea for the ELEVATE Arts Festival was born.
ELEVATE combines viewing existing public art, with a series of events featuring new contemporary, and sometimes temporary or mobile, artwork. The festival provides opportunities for emerging talent as well as established artists and includes work by local, national and international artists.
The footprint of the festival covers some well-known areas of downtown like Woodruff Park, as well as some hidden and blighted areas like South Broad Street. Two years ago we invited world-famous muralists HENSE, Push, Sever, Born and Tilt to paint entire buildings on South Broad Street.
Today I’m happy to report that area has enjoyed renewed interest by investors and the public, with a number of tenants and businesses moving in including the Mammal Gallery and EYDRUM. We’re hoping that one day soon it will be the center of a thriving artist enclave.
Without the support of the community, we could not create an event like ELEVATE. We are thankful for robust partnerships with arts and cultural organizations and area businesses.
This year we are working with the Goat Farm, Mammal Gallery, EYEDRUM, France/Atlanta and Central Atlanta Progress on a variety of interesting projects.
For instance, The Goat Farm is curating the transformation of a series of dumpsters into mobile art galleries. EYEDRUM will be live streaming a dance performance from Istanbul, Turkey. And France/Atlanta is bringing over popular French street performers, La Passante, who will treat commuters to a poetic interlude.
The vision and support of Mayor Reed added the anchor of 2 City Plaza on Marietta Street as a foundation to build a robust program that focuses on redevelopment of blighted urban areas. He made a commitment to a replacement gallery for City Gallery East, and he supported the transformational design of Gallery 72, which is a welcome addition to the downtown landscape.
This year during ELEVATE, Galley 72 will be a focal point featuring work by up-and-coming Atlanta artist, Branden Collins, alongside work by established French artist, Joanie LeMercier.
For those who haven’t had a chance to visit the gallery yet, we hope you’ll come and see it during ELEVATE. We are especially proud of the award-winning design by Stanley Beaman & Sears which incorporates the building’s pre-existing aesthetics with sculptural architectural features that produce a visually stunning creative space.
A number of businesses are contributing to the revitalization of downtown Atlanta. Central Atlanta Progress has always been a champion for downtown, and the business organization recently moved to Walton Street where its building is undergoing a major renovation.
Several downtown restaurants also are providing a unique opportunity to sample food offerings in Gallery 72 as part of ELEVATE. Additional financial support for ELEVATE is being provided by FORD and the National Endowment for the Arts.
During ELEVATE, it is our hope that people will stay downtown after work to explore; visitors will experience the vibrancy of Atlanta; students from nearby colleges will take a break from their studies to recharge; residents will see this as an opportunity to invite neighbors out for a stroll; and people who live outside the city will venture downtown to discover what’s new.
The 4th annual ELEVATE Arts Festival is from Friday, October 17 through Sunday, October 23.
Our theme is “Social City” and with the help of more than 100 artists, we are creating an environment for discovery, interaction and conversation. The festival will include murals, light projections on buildings, sculptures, interactive gadgetry, artist panels, mobile art galleries and dance performances.
And we are throwing a huge art and music block party on opening night in the Fairlie-Poplar district to kick things off. All of the events are free and open to the public. Come get social with us!
For information about all of the programs of the Office of Cultural Affairs, visit its website.
Note to readers: Camille Russell Love has directed art and culture programs in the City of Atlanta since 1998. Her projects have included directing the Chastain Arts Center, the Public Art Program, Contracts for Arts Services, Cultural Experience Project, Atlanta Cyclorama & Civil War Museum and Gallery 72. She also produces the annual Atlanta Jazz Festival and ELEVATE Arts Festival.