We often hear about the virtues of local food and, of course, there are many reasons that we should look for sustenance close to home. Less often do we hear that said of local culture, the sustenance that feeds our minds and souls, though we need it just as much.
While compiling the winners for this year's Poets, Artists, and Madmen section, it became increasingly clear that this was the year that Atlanta's mainstream culture started looking a little closer to home. The High Museum of Art, an institution that has a historically rocky relationship with Atlanta's art scene, mounted Drawing Inside the Perimeter, an exciting group show of local artists. Georgia's film tax break, which has mostly been used to buoy out-of-state filmmakers, gave Ray McKinnon and James Ponsoldt a good reason to make a celebrated television show and indie hit film, respectively, in their home state.
Top Shelf Productions, a comic book publisher based in Marietta, might have scored its biggest hit yet with March: Book One, the moving first installment of a three-part graphic novel series by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell. Georgia also gained a new literary star in Jamie Quatro, whose debut short story collection, I Want to Show You More, was nationally praised.
Feeding on local culture, rather than just consuming the glossy Hollywood shlock and television glitz, means looking in less common places. We're giving an award to the Monday nights of stand-up comedy at the Star Bar, a dive bar that's so wonderfully dingy and run down, we're a little afraid to see it with the lights on. The place has quietly become the proving ground for both emerging and established comics in Atlanta. You don't go there because some big name is on the marquee, rather, you attend to get a taste of what the best comics in town have cooked up this week.
Earlier this year, our perennial Readers Pick for Best Advocate for the Arts, WonderRoot, started a subscription program it's calling Community Supported Art. It was inspired by Community Supported Agriculture programs, the idea of subscribing to a farm. If you can sell local food like that, why not sell work by local artists the same way? That's the kind of cultural nutrition that we were looking for in Best of Atlanta 2013.