Friday, June 1, 2012

Behind the scenes with ARTLANTIS and I.C.E. co-founders

Posted By on Fri, Jun 1, 2012 at 1:37 PM

ARTLANTIS/BeepBeep Gallery co-founders James McConnell (left) and Mark Basehore
  • Joeff Davis
  • ARTLANTIS/BeepBeep Gallery co-founders James McConnell (left) and Mark Basehore
Events like ARTLANTIS and the Indie Craft Experience (ICE) - where Atlanta folks get their fix for local artwork and indie crafts - don't just spring up from the ground like magic beanstalks. These events take tons of work by as ICE co-founder Christy Petterson and ARTLANTIS co-founder James McConnell can attest.

In addition to working regular full time jobs, Petterson and McConnell still find time to organize these events. Petterson and her friend Shannon Mulkey (of Patina) run the ICE event series in addition to her running their own crafting operations. McConnell, the co-owner of Beep Beep Gallery, juggles gallery responsibilities with ARTLANTIS duties (Beep Beep even has an opening for its new exhibit Create, Destroy, Rebuild the same night as ARTLANTIS.

Petterson and McConnell talked with CL about D.I.Y. and why Atlanta is supportive of these type of events.

What are the origins of your respective events, why did you feel the need to start them?

Petterson: Shannon and I met at the end of 2004 at Young Blood Gallery, and basically we both were aware of this growing craft/D.I.Y community that was becoming nationwide. We were familiar with an event in Chicago called Renegade Craft Fair and an event in Austin called Stitch, and we were inspired by these events in other cities and we though Atlanta needed an event like these. We started planning in January of 2005 and had our first event in June of 2005. So we thought basically if these other cities could have a cool craft fair we needed one here too. We are both crafters ourselves, so we were hoping to create an event for people like us, ironically we now don't have time to sell our crafts at our own event (laughs).

McConnell: ARTLANTIS comes from Beep Beep, really, when we started we were just showing local artists and that was our focus. And the festival honestly just started on accident, which is how the gallery started, but our focus was really just to do a festival where we enjoy the art. The reasoning was to create a place where local artists could sell art, we knew about ICE and they were covering the crafting side of things, we wanted to create something like Inman Park Arts Festival or SummerFest (in Virgina-Highlands) but specifically with art from locals and local bands performing too. The artists that participate might not normally buy a booth in an art festival, so its to provide a cheap place for artists to sell their art and we provide tents, tables, and walls to hang up work on.

What about Atlanta makes it an ideal place for festivals such as yours?

McConnell: I think, in general, the great thing about Atlanta is that you can do anything that you want to do. People will support you, if you put it out there and you come from a genuine place, you will get support. And I think these festivals are a reflection of that, people want to do stuff for you because they believe what you are doing is positive. And that's a great thing, because in other cities this might not be that easy to do. Anything can be started and sustained as long as you have the energy and people to support it.

Petterson: Yeah, I agree completely. I say all the time that in Atlanta, if you wanna be the girl that starts a craft market you can or if you wanna be the guy that opens a gallery, you can. In larger cities, you're competing with a lot of other people, but here if you wanna be that girl or guy and you want to hustle and make it happen, you can. I think there's a lot of enthusiasm in Atlanta, if you have something cool that's going on, people get excited about it.

Indie Craft Experience is happening this weekend at Ambient Plus Studio

Do you think events like the ones you put on could happen on a monthly basis, is there enough demand for these kind of events?

McConnell: ICE has multiple events a year, doesn't it?

Petterson: Yeah we have the Indie Craft Experience in the Summer and a Holiday show, and we've added the Wedding Day Hooray show in Feb. and the Salvage Market in April. But I'll say that we did try a monthly mini craft market at Young Blood called Craft Work, but it never garnered the interest we hoped it would. I also think that absence makes the heart grow fonder. But Beep Beep has monthly openings, don't you?

McConnell: Yeah we actually have an opening the same day as ARTLANTIS. It's called Create, Destroy, and Rebuild, it's going to be a great show but it's been so labor intensive having the event the same day as the opening. I think I would have to agree though and say that an ARTLANTIS every month just wouldn't generate enough interest.

What is the hardest part about putting on events like these?

McConnell: It's doing the gallery stuff in addition to our regular full-time jobs, and then having ARTLANTIS on top of all of that. Luckily, this year we've had some help from Lydia Sharlow, and she's been awesome at taking pressure off of us having to manage everything all at once.

Petterson: Yeah I think it's the same for us, there's really just never enough hours in the day. It can be a juggling act and there's always other cool things that I want to do for the event that we sometimes just don't have enough time to make happen. But its also been hard trying to develop the brand for our other events too, trying to figure out how to have each one develop their own identity but still all fit under the same umbrella.

ARTLANTIS, Sat., June 2, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Druid Hills Baptist Church, 1085 Ponce De Leon Ave NE,

Indie Craft Experience, Sat., June 2 and Sun., June 3 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Ambient Plus Studio, 585 Wells St SW,

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