Gather Atlanta rallies the creative masses

Third annual local arts consortium encourages artists to pick each other's brains

In recent years, local art-goers have been getting beaucoup chances to kill more birds with fewer stones. Festivals like Artlantis rally galleries and artists from all over the city onto one patch of grass. Geographically based unions of spaces like the Westside Arts District, Castleberry Hill Art Stroll and Ponce Crush invite patrons to traverse neighborhoods, turning disparate gallery openings into whole evening, multi-stop events. The motivation for such efforts is pretty easy to suss out: band together to share patronage and ignite further enthusiasm for the arts.

Throw in the hyped new exhibitions and events at the High Museum, add a second infusion of international street art from Living Walls, continuing public art projects like Art on the Atlanta Beltline, the city's new Four Coats murals project and what begins to take shape is an elevated (and growing, fingers crossed) presence on the international art scene.

Unless you're directly involved with a creative organization in Atlanta, there's a more-than-decent chance you've never heard of the all-in-one art event Gather Atlanta. Gather Atlanta's a one-day happening where up-and-coming galleries, arts support organizations, publications, and various creative groups across a wide disciplinary range get in a room together to make it rain business cards on folks, put faces to names (we're all made of pure Internet these days, so yes, sometimes you have to schedule human contact), and pick each other's brains during panel discussions.

This year's August 6 get-together at SCAD-Atlanta marks the third annual installment of the consortium. CL talked to organizers Erica Jamison from MINT Gallery and Chris Appleton from WonderRoot about this year's event.

Unlike other collective art events in town, Gather Atlanta doesn't seem to be directly about the finished art product. So who is this for?

Erica Jamison: It's really a networking event. Most of these organizations know about each other, and what everyone is doing, but we're all so busy that rarely do we have as much of an opportunity as we would like to actually sit and talk to each other, especially in an arena where everyone gets to thoughtfully present who they are. There might be one group that you've heard of and you kinda know what they're about but they can stay on your "I'll find out more later" list for years. That's what Gather Atlanta is about: getting things off that list and walking away with a bunch of new contacts and a greater understanding of the cultural landscape in Atlanta.

So is Gather Atlanta essentially like any other industry conference?

EJ: Yes and no. The structure of the event, each group having their own table to present information and literature or whatever about themselves, is a pretty standard format. But there's a different urgency for having an event like this right now for arts organizations in Atlanta.

Why's that?

EJ: Atlanta is a city in which organic partnerships can be difficult, if not impossible to make under ordinary circumstances. This is a driving city, and that often keeps people from getting to every event, getting to be exposed to everything. It's frustrating. We're trying to address that by making things simple for one day.

This year Gather Atlanta will be held at SCAD-Atlanta. Are you specifically aiming to bring information to the tender young minds at SCAD?

Chris Appleton: SCAD is obviously an arts institution, so we still feel like it's a perfect, neutral place for us. In the end, we chose it based on the space itself, but obviously we're excited that it also gives students closer proximity to the event because they are absolutely a huge part of our target audience. So them having the correct space really made a lot of things easier for us.

Gather Atlanta isn't the only event in Atlanta that aims to grant access to a lot of arts groups at once. Why are cultural corrals like this so helpful?

EJ: In any industry, but especially in the arts I think, having the support of other groups is crucial to survival. Art is not a world where you can really be an island as an organization. A big part of knowing how to maximize what you're doing is knowing who else is out there, what resources you can call on. There are so many efforts going on to support individual projects, and organizations, through fundraisers, etc. But one of most effective ways we can really bolster collective and individual success is simply putting them in a room together, inviting new people to hopefully get involved and watch them naturally figure out how to make each other stronger.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated for accuracy.

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