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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Could Underground become Atlanta's new Arts District?

We did a double-take when we came across this news segment that aired Monday night. Towards the end of an interview with CBS-Atlanta news anchor JaQuitta Williams, Mayor Kasim Reed was asked what might be done to improve Underground Atlanta. His answer? Scratch the proffered idea of turning it into a casino and transform it into a vibrant center for the arts, a district full of theaters, galleries, businesses, studios, and creative spaces for artists in the city, in partnership with Atlanta University Center and Georgia State.

Wait a sec, we said. Is this the same mayor who threatened not six months ago to cut our already meager city arts funding in half? Not only did he do a quick, unexpected turnaround on that issue, but now he's talking about transforming Underground Atlanta into a friggin' arts district?!? (What have they done with the real Mayor Reed and how did they replace him with this totally awesome new guy?)

In all seriousness, we think it's the best idea we've heard in ages, and we commend Mayor Reed whole-heartedly for his vision. It's an idea we've heard bandied about before, but never at this level of political office or in such a public forum. Bravo.

So, m'kay. How do we make this thing happen? We're already picturing taking the Beltline streetcar, transferring to MARTA and arriving at an Underground that's filled with busy cafes and galleries, music, theater marquees, film festivals, dance studios, public performances, museums, arts education, the works. We'll meet you there, Mayor Reed, just tell us how.

You can see Mayor Reed discuss his vision for Underground in the following video from CBS news, starting at the 3:08 mark.

And by the way: We also love how he and Williams both give shout-outs to one of our favorite new dance companies: 2 Kids and a Dream and their production "SHE Created It." You can actually see 2 Kids and a Dream perform at Atlanta's future arts center, Underground Atlanta, this Friday, September 23, at 7 pm in a free performance on the steps by the fountain as a part of the city-funded public arts event Elevate/Atlanta. If Reed gets his way, maybe next time they'll be performing at their own permanent dance studio and theater space in a primo spot on Upper Alabama Street. Don't dream it. Be it.

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