Arts Issue - Atlanta's creative comm-U-N-I-T-Y

Local artists are finding ways to come together and build their city

After nearly a decade in business, the owners of Midtown's Beep Beep Gallery announced in October that they'd be closing shop at the end of 2015. At Beep Beep, Co-Founders/Curators Mark Basehore and James McConnell have offered a platform with a DIY spirit for emerging artists. Beep Beep gave arts newbies and Atlanta's younger generations a chance to view, appreciate, and invest without feeling intimidated. While it wasn't the most profitable business, Beep Beep built a community in a city where that very word often seems to be missing from its leaders' vocabulary.

"Running Beep Beep had something to do with providing a different kind of space for a certain group of artists that wouldn't have had that space," Basehore said in an interview with CL about the gallery's closing. "It's a simple thing, but it wasn't so simple."

Yes, the idea of building around community should be simple, but we as Atlantans — both natives and transplants — know that doing that in a city obsessed with developing giant, tourist-driven entertainment centers doesn't come easy. It is possible, however. Although Atlanta is littered with projects that blow tax dollars rather than fuel creativity, there are still people, places, and organizations that are bucking the status quo.

For this year's Arts Issue, we decided to focus on the communities that have taken or are taking shape in different pockets inside the Perimeter. We dropped in on South Broad Street Downtown where Murmur Media, led by Executive Director Amanda Mills, has transformed a once derelict space into a resource and education hub for zine makers and others interested in DIY and ephemeral media. We explored the city's indie literature community through the eyes of Stephanie Dowda and Scott Daughtridge, the minds behind Lostintheletters and the Letters Festival.

There's a black creative Renaissance occurring, most recently documented by filmmaker Artemus Jenkins and visual artist Sean Fahie in the new film If You Know the Words, Feel Free. In south Atlanta, an area not necessarily known as a bubbling arts district, City of Ink Co-Owner and artist Miya Bailey, along with his partner Sharon Dennehey, have opened the Notch 8 Gallery for dedicated collectors. In East Point, Lucky Penny's Blake Beckham is taking a chance on dancers at the Work Room, a space where she and other performers can focus on individual growth while also working collaboratively.

Finally, we dropped in on WonderRoot to speak with Executive Director Chris Appleton as he mentally prepares for the physical transition the organization is making into the 54,000-square-foot, 8-acre former home of Tech High/Hubert Elementary.

We have no idea what Atlanta will look like in the next two years, let alone the coming decade. What we do know that is that no matter the direction in which the city grows there will always be creative communities using their talents, passion, and drive to define themselves and the city on their own terms.

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