Atlanta Intown Article: Creative Community

Creative Community
Atlanta INtown Newspaper May Issue

Westside Arts District emerges as gallery destination

Atlanta's Westside, between Howell Mill Road and Means Street, has become a burgeoning locale for contemporary art. Long a gathering place for creative people, the area has become home to a collective of nine gallery spaces now known as the Westside Arts District.

Westside Arts District is a mix of commercial galleries, nonprofit spaces, and a coffeehouse: Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center, Bobbe Gillis Gallery, Emily Amy Gallery, Get This! Gallery, Kiang Gallery, Octane Coffee Bar, SALTWORKS, the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum and Sandler Hudson Gallery. Created in January, the district's monthly "Westside Art Walks" are already creating a buzz among artists and art lovers.

"I sent out a blanket e-mail to all the galleries I knew that existed in the area and said I think we should try to get together and collaborate on something," said Emily Amy, owner of Emily Amy Gallery. "I didn't know any of the gallery owners at the time. I was almost shocked at how quickly everyone responded. We talked about forming the organization during our first meeting."

Although the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Octane and Sandler Hudson Gallery have been established in the area for more than four years, other galleries migrated to the area in the last two years from Castleberry Hills and the Old Fourth Ward, citing location and lower rents.

"Castleberry has stalled as a visual arts area and become more of a center for nightlife," said Ben Roosevelt, an artist whose work whose work has been shown at Get This! Gallery and will be featured at the Robert C. Williams Paper Museum. "The challenge of Atlanta, with everything spread so far apart, is that there's not really one arts district. The Westside is a great location because it's more accessible to the greater population of Atlanta."

Every Third Saturday, Westside Arts District hosts the Art Walk, encouraging the Atlanta community to engage in a fresh way with contemporary art. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. families, students, and art enthusiasts take their sneakers to the streets, touring the art gallery spaces and attending educational talks. The art spaces are all within one mile of each other and two or three lectures or artist talks are included each month.

"There are people out there who are curious buyers, but they would rather get on a plane and go to New York because they don't know what's available here," said Christina Caudill, co-owner of SALTWORKS. "We want to make people aware, both the buyer and the general public, of what we're doing here."

Octane, the only arts space in the collective that doubles as a coffeehouse, has its art curated by owner Tony Riffel and is a place where people gather to discuss arts before and after the monthly arts walk.

Said Riffel, "Art has been a big part of what we have been doing from day one. Our walls are great for different exhibits. We rotate every month, and we only focus on local art. We're really trying to capture the artists that aren't getting attention from other galleries. It's been great to see the creative community grow around us. To see it come to life now is really exciting."


Music Moments Blog 2: What Was Your Musical First?

May is Mena’s Music Month and as many of you know I have a habit of coining random celebrations. lol Blogging about musical moments and memories is not only a great way to celebrate May but it’s also alliteration. Everyone needs alliteration! This week I solicited some quotes from a few cool people about their musical firsts. The amazing thing about music is that it holds memories for all of us across generation, culture, and gender. So read on for some nostalgic musical firsts and feel free to share some of your own.

Amena Brown, writer/talker/spoons player
Sixth grade. I had just moved from Silver Spring, MD to San Antonio, TX and was highly unhappy about it. Felt like I went from really cool place to live to really slow, cowboy boots, flatland place to live. (no offense to my Texas peeps! lol) I was having a hard time fitting in, but somehow found a friend in a tall freckle-faced, brown haired boy named Daniel. Daniel was always in trouble, so when our class went to do fun stuff like play on the computer or have recess, he was typically leaning against some wall at the teacher’s behest for his bad behavior. I would stop and talk to him sometimes since we kind of had something in common. He couldn’t have fun with the class and I frankly didn’t want to. lol He told me about the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Asked me if I’d ever heard a song called “Under the Bridge.” I hadn’t so he sang me the words and told me to check it out. I caught the video on MTV and loved it! After that I’d always check on Daniel during his times of detention and sing a few of the lines with him. I still know all the words to that song.

Leaf, Singer/Songwriter
I think my first live show was Goapele. I actually went to go see another artist that night at the temple bar in Los Angeles and stayed around to see the other artists. And I must tell you that watching her with her band inspired my brother to encourage me to put my own band together which I did soon after. It was really a great show but my most favorite live show was AMEL @ Sugar Hill in ATL. There was just something about the magnitude of energy and love reciprocated in the room between Amel and us fans that I have yet to experience again. Hopefully it will be one of my own shows.

Leaf, Singer/Songwriter

The first instrument I learned was the guitar. At four years old while living in Los Angeles, 54th and Venice in South Central, a friend of my parents brought over an old beat up guitar with holes in it and just two strings. And my dad used to tell the story that I just walked over and started playing and I've been playing ever since.

Marc McCartney, Blogger
Director of Events, www.RightNow.org

My Dad was a football coach and I loved being around him. So as a little kid, I spent a ton of hours on the practice field and in the locker room. Music was always the pulse of the locker room. I could walk into the locker room and just by listening to the music I would know what was going on.

Before games you hear something with lots of bass to get the juices flowing. Before practice you might hear something a little more upbeat, but not too intense. After practice is going to be something mellow and lazy. After a loss – no music! But after a win – that’s when you get the hip hop. Everyone was excited and juiced up and ready to let it all out. The team would sing the songs aloud – practically shouting the music – it was a party in that locker room and it was so much fun! Run DMC, Sir Mix A Lot, Public Enemy, Biz Markie, Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, and the list goes on… those were the days!

Chuck Woo, Managing Director, Woo Media Works
Blogger/Marketing Consultant, www.chuckwoo.com

As a 6 year old being able to witness the hardest working man in show business and the smooth Temptations gave me a soulful appreciation of music and entertainment. James Brown was the best entertainer and could move the crowd just dancing.

Don't know if I remember my first music store experience, however the first 45 that I bought for 67 cents was James Brown, which I think I still have somewhere.

Dan Kimball, author/speaker, www.dankimball.com

I think the first full album I ever bought was KISS's "Destroyer" album. I was fascinated with KISS as a kid. I think it was the whole stage show, lighting, smoke machines, the drums that rose in the air during the drum solo and all the theatrics that they did that no one else was doing like that back then. I am quite embarrassed to say but I saw KISS 3 times live in concert while in high school.

Matthew “Opie” Owen, DJ and Saxophone player

The first time I was on my turntables in front of a crowd, a large youth group had hired me to come and make it hot that night. I was kind of panicking because I wasn't exactly sure how to hook everything up, but I didn't want to let them know that. Even though my right table was coming out of my left on the mixer and my left was coming out of the right, the crowd was moving and I've been in love ever since.

AJ Joiner, www.TheASpot.com

“It’s not bippety-bop mama.” I pleaded sincerely as I tried to convince my Mama to cough up $7.99 so I could buy UTFO. 
I’d heard ‘Roxanne, Roxanne’ and ‘The Real Roxanne’ at friends’ houses, but Grandma wasn’t allowing that ‘bee-bop mess’ in her house, and Mama wasn’t either. Shortly thereafter I scammed my Uncle into buying the tape and it. Was. On. 

We spent weeks with the tape deck locked, loaded and on record/pause. I wrote lyrics in my ‘Rap notebook’ and was ready at a moment’s notice for a ‘battle’ with my brother and friends to rap the lyrics to anything by UTFO. 
“Calling Her a Crab, Roxanne, Roxanne, Bite It, The Real Roxanne” are all classics in their own right. Dr. Ice, Kangol Kid, Mixmaster Ice, and the Educated Rapper pioneered the early 80’s version of what we call ‘diss’ and reply albums. 

No true hip hop head can stroll down Hip Hop memory lane without touching the Untouchable Force Organization better known as UTFO. 

What were some of your musical firsts?


Music Moments Blog 1: Theme Songs

theme song: \ˈthēm\ \ˈsoŋ\ noun 1 a musical composition that inspires and motivates

I’ve learned that the only time dreams just happen to you is in your sleep. In real life, the achieving of dreams takes work, risking failure and rejection, and refusing to settle for what is comfortable or convenient. A theme song can be a great way to keep yourself focused and motivated. These tunes keep me encouraged to be myself, to keep going even when it would seem easier to call it quits, to sing really loud, to dance, and to believe.

Off the Wall – Michael Jackson
Yes, this song is about the boogie, but let’s dig a little deeper. Michael is singing a metaphor here, something Pink picked up on in “God is a Deejay.” Life -- the dance floor. God – the deejay. You – hopefully are not leaning against the wall scared to dance. Not only does this song rock, but also it reminds me to not get too comfortable leaning against the wall in life.

“Life ain’t so bad at all if you’re living off the wall.” – Michael Jackson

Strength, Courage and Wisdom – India.Arie
India.Arie is one of my FAVORITE artists. She writes the songs that say what I want to say, and this one is closest to my heart out of all of them. I love this song because it communicates the balance of living your dream: I do my part and God does his. There are times to make a move and times to let it be. This is also a great workout song! (Shout out to the treadmill!)

“I close my eyes and I think of all the things that I wanna see…” – India.Arie

Breakaway – Kelly Clarkson
I’ll admit it. I LOVED Kelly Clarkson’s first album (shout out to dr. hoch who hipped me to it!) When I first heard the song “Breakaway,” Andy Stanley was doing a series of messages with the same title at Buckhead Church. I cried at all of them because I knew that breaking away from what was comfortable is what I would have to do if I was going to live my life to the fullest. At the time that was a tall order because it meant a serious interruption in my routine and perspective. Looking back on that moment I’m glad I took the risk of leaving my convenience and comfort to pursue something new.

“Make a wish, take a chance, make a change, and breakaway.” – Kelly Clarkson

Pretty Girl – Eric Roberson
I believe God can speak to us through many things and I realized after listening to this on repeat 20 zillion times lol that I love this song because it sounds like something God would say. I can imagine him watching this girl, the same way a dad marvels at, loves, and protects his daughter. Telling her that she doesn’t have to settle for less than what she’s worth. That there is more to her than her physical appearance. That he sees beauty in her beyond her smile. This song, reminds me of how big God’s love is and that thankfully his love doesn’t depend on how good we are or how much we have it together.

“Open your eyes and realize you’re worth much more. Oh so much more.” – Eric Roberson

“That’s my theme music. Every good hero should have some.” – John Slade, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka (check the video around 7:50...really watch all of it, it's hilarious! lol)

Your turn. What are some of your theme songs?