Thanks to a partnership with Southwest Airlines, Emory University students have the opportunity to work directly with local artists and community groups in Atlanta to learn about ethically engaged art and improve the city around them.
Global Growers is an independent nonprofit based in Atlanta, GA. They are dedicated to increasing the number of food producers, preparing farmers to be competitive in local marketplaces, and creating access to healthy and sustainably-grown food.
The Global Growers group worked with Ross Oscar Knight (Photographer) and Robin Chanin (Executive Director of Global Growers).
Alliance Theatre is a successful and highly-respected acting education program located in Atlanta, GA. They are dedicated to sharing theatrical experiences with diverse people and providing access to the arts on a national level while remaining deeply rooted in and reflective of the local community.
The Alliance Theatre group worked with Laura Asherman (Filmmaker) and Celise Kalke (Director of New Projects at Alliance Theatre).
UHI provides health disparities education and advocacy, builds collaborative partnerships and develops best practice models with underserved communities and those who work with them in Metropolitan Atlanta in order to advance equity in health and well-being.
This past semester, The Arts and Social Engagement group paired with Urban Health Initiative and filmmaker William Feagins in a project to improve the community through their work. They were also assisted by Dr. Carolyn Aidman, PHD and Dr. William Sexson, MD.Their goal was to increase education on nutrition and access to fresh produce in low socio-economic neighborhoods of Atlanta through their work at the Community Teaching Garden. The garden is located in low income, food desert area of North West Atlanta. Their project aims to teach community members how to grow their own food, to provide nutritional education, and to grow fresh produce from the garden.
The Urban Health Initiative’s Goal is to connect community with academia, to provide an opportunity for learners both in a school setting or in the community to get more knowledge about social determinants of health, to apply that knowledge and then to also work together with community students to make a positive change.”
Co- Director of Urban Health Initiative Dr. Charles Moore when asked about UHI’s goals
Charles E. Moore, MD is an associate professor of Otolaryngology at Emory University School of Medicine, co-director of the Emory Urban Health Initiative, and chief of service in the Department of Otolaryngology at Grady Health System. Dr. Moore is also the founder and co-editor of the International Journal of Medical Volunteerism.
“Working with the students on The Temple Bombing short documentary has been an eye-opening experience for me. By breaking down my process for beginners to the medium, I’m contextualizing and reevaluating the habits that have become ingrained in me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the students, and I hope that both through our process and the content of our film, they come away from this with a deeper grasp of the power of media to effect social change and the skills necessary to embark on their own documentary projects.” – Laura
Art pulls a community together…Art makes you feel differently. That’s what artists are doing all the time, shifting and changing the way you see life – Lister Sinclair
Atlanta’s street art scene is a burgeoning melting pot. With enough effort, you can find street art in almost every corner of Atlanta that encompasses all cultures; from Chinese calligraphy to thought-provoking graffiti, clever and creative messages can be constantly found in the streets of downtown, midtown, Inman Park or Little Five Points. In fact, some call Atlanta’s evolving avant-garde art community a “visual art renaissance” (thegrio.com). Undoubtedly, however, it is the ordinary passerbys and citizens that benefit the most from these public (and free!) artworks that allow for anyone to find beauty in even the most ordinary things.
Personally, I believe street art to be one of the purest and most thoughtful forms of artistic expression that exists. It allows people to find deeper meaning in a mural on the wall of their city or to smile when they are taking a walk around Beltline of Atlanta. In the fast-paced, concrete jungle society that we live in, there is tremendous hope and possibility in people slowing down to observe their surroundings with open eyes (and open minds), stopping to observe the work laid out in front of them, and realizing that it’s for them.
There are, of course, many that consider street art to be a form of vandalism. In fact, graffiti and street art are generally described as “any form of unsanctioned art that occurs in a public or privately owned space” (Wikipedia). With this, I wonder how certain people consider street art to be a form of ‘illegal vandalism’. Why can’t it be a form of reclaiming public space for ‘unsanctioned’ art that originally belongs to the people and that continues to exemplify a form of political resistance, before it is considered illegal? And how does one draw the line between a public installation of art and vandalism? Of course, we cannot expect everyone to feel the same way and obviously, there are residents who live in these areas that may feel as if their personal space has been violated. But this has always been a point of interest (and resolution) for artists; negotiating the space between creating an artwork that is can be readily integrated with the community and at the same time, can challenge its viewers to take something from the art itself.
On the walls and storefronts, there are a lot of gallery-worth works that have been commissioned by Living Walls, which since 2010 have sought to promote, educate and change perspective about public space in Atlanta communities via street art (livingwallsatl). Elevate Atlanta initiatives and Art on the Beltline have also added some spectacular pieces to our city’s streets (CurbedAtlanta).
To experience the climate of the art scene in Atlanta first-handedly, I’ve decided to take a walk on Atlanta’s very own Beltline. The Atlanta Beltline is a 22-mile long network of public parks, trails and transit circling downtown and connecting some of the city’s most popular neighborhoods such as Ponce City Market, Piedmont Park and etc. (AtlantaBeltline). It is home to many conceptual sculptures and murals and every year, Art On The Atlanta Beltline public art initiative selects new and returning artists to showcase dynamic installations and performances (AtlantaBeltline).
Here are some photos that were taken from my trip around Beltline (please excuse my lack of skills in photography).
Integrating their talents, character, and experience to solve the weakness in social order, artists in Atlanta have embraced the community in their inspiring creative journey. With its artists greasing its wheels, Atlanta has come a long way in creating a seamless and vibrant hub for street art, exhibitions, and art caucuses. It is home to numerous art exhibitions and events that foster community involvement and dialogue between artists and audiences. Local artists and out-of-town artists invited were heavily focused on capturing and challenging issues that are often not talked about and that are important to Atlanta specifically.
Here are brief introductions to the different subject matters of art exhibitions, installations, performances and events held in Atlanta:
Flux Project (current and ongoing)
The Flux Project was founded in 2009 and till today, it remains as a medium in engaging Atlanta’s public spaces with thought-proving art. It is a non-profit arts organization that aims to shape and promote Atlanta’ cultural identity. (@fluxproject.com)
Art in Freedom Park
Freedom Park’s visibility made it an ideal location for public display of art work in Atlanta. In 2005, Evan Levy opened the fountainhead for sculptures and paved the way for bolder, more conceptual and more risk-taking art installations and projects for local artists to explore. Ever since then, multiple installations and art events have attracted multiple citizens around Atlanta and further connected art with the larger cultural discourse. (@freedompark.org)
Murals in Georgia Department of Agriculture
As you step in the lobby of Georgia Department of Agriculture, you will come across a painting that has been hanging in the lobby for half a century. These murals are part of a collection of eight works painted by George Beattle in 1956. It depicts “an idealized version of Georgia farming, from the corn grown by prehistoric American Indians to a 20th-century veterinary lab. In the Deep South, the history of forced use of slave labor”. In response to the controversy around the paintings, Beattle responded, “as a human being, I am vehemently opposed to slavery, as anyone should be but it was a significant epoch in our history; it would have been inaccurate not to include this period”. (Associated Press)
Human trafficking and Sexual Assault
“It ought to concern every person, because it is a debasement of our common humanity. It ought to concern every community, because it tears at our social fabric. It ought to concern every business, because it distorts markets. It ought to concern every nation, because it endangers public health and fuels violence and organized crime. I’m talking about the injustice, the outrage, of human trafficking, which must be called by its true name -modern slavery.”
– President Barack Obama in remarks to the Clinton Global Initiative in 2012
Human trafficking is brutal and widespread in Atlanta. In fact, Atlanta is one of the largest hubs for human trafficking in the country. Mary Bowely, who runs Wellspring Living, a non-profit organization in Atlanta that helps young survivors of human trafficking explains how the numbers are bigger than what many people consider; there are about 200-300 girls that are trafficked each month in this very city and around 100 girls are exploited in metro Atlanta every night. To fight modern slavery, local Atlanta artists and artists from out-of-town gathered together in Mammal Gallery this September to engage in dialogue with the community and raise awareness of human trafficking in Atlanta. (@WCAGA.org)
In 2013, an Emory graduate, Charlie Watts Watts held an exhibition about sex trafficking at Emory University’s Visual Art Building Gallery. Titled, “The ThrowAways” Watts involved a photographic genre of pictorialism with glowing, digitally produced color images in her creative efforts to create art that would “neither drive away potential viewers nor blunt the impact of the unpleasant facts embodied in the subject” (@artsatl). Her exhibition, in a review by Jerry Cullum credited the exhibition to have “exactly the right mixture of cold realism and metaphoric evocation” that placed the viewer in a climate appropriate to understand the oppressive, tense and brutal aspects of human trafficking (Jerry Cullum).