The arts have a hard time in Atlanta 

If only leaders could see that culture benefits the entire city

A genuine muckety-muck called the other day. Joel Babbit is a legend in Atlanta ad agency circles. But he was calling because he's hopping mad about the Atlanta Film Festival.

Babbit had resigned from the board of advisors of IMAGE Film & Video Center, which runs the festival. The festival had lost yet another director and, for a year, IMAGE hasn't had a permanent executive director. Why, Babbit wants to know, is IMAGE jumping from year to year with little leadership continuity? Could that be one reason our festival has stagnated while others grow enormously?

As Staff Writer Curt Holman reports this week, IMAGE has now hired an executive director (p. 18). But an Atlanta art institution's tribulations are a familiar chorus in a sad ballad. Now, it's IMAGE. Last winter, Eyedrum -- the fantastic alternative arts space -- was struggling to pay the rent.

In another article this week, Staff Writer Felicia Feaster enthusiastically reviews an exhibit at Young Blood Gallery (p. 38). She also reveals that Young Blood owners Kelly Teasley and Maggie White are having a hard time keeping the gallery going. Their game plan is to run through this exhibit and then, perhaps, to give Young Blood one last stab at another location before calling it quits.

Contrast this with last weekend's shuttering of Vision nightclub. Turns out, RedEye columnist Tony Ware reports, that Vision's owners have purchased mega-competitor Compound (p. 89). Meanwhile, nonprofit arts groups bump along, never gaining the financial breathing room to take the risks that would place a richly creative community on the national map.

Why is that? Simple answer: In Atlanta's go-go commercial culture, it just doesn't compute that arts groups could give more to the community if only local government and businesses invested in them the way leaders in other cities do. Arts groups certainly need to do their part by running their organizations competently.

Until more of our corporate and political muckety-mucks figure out that we all gain by supporting such organizations, however, the sad ballad will add new verses.


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